O’Toole says he’s condemned racism in past, when asked why platform makes no mention of it

Hard to believe that omission was not deliberate but still surprising:

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole spent his 16th day on the election campaign talking about his plan to ban puppy mills and to crack down on unethical breeders , and defended the fact his party’s platform mentions neither racism nor systemic racism.

The Conservative Party of Canada’s election platform, entitled “Canada’s Recovery Plan,” stretches 160 pages and comprises some 49,000 words, some of which are more used much more frequently than others.

For instance, the phrase “a detailed plan” is used 22 times in the table of contents alone, while the word “secure” is used in five sub-headers highlighting the party’s plan to “secure” the economy, jobs, and other key election issues. The word “puppy” as it relates to today’s announcement appears twice.

But, as CTV News’ Omar Sachedina noted, there are some words that are missing from the document entirely, including “racism” and “Islamophobia.”

Asked by CTV News during a media availability on Monday about the discrepancy, O’Toole didn’t address the absence of the words directly, but said he has spoken out against racism and pointed to diversity among the Conservative slate of candidates.

“I’ve spoken out on the horrific rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism against people of colour, indigenous Canadians,” he said during a campaign stop at a dog rescue and sanctuary in King City, Ont.

“I will fight for Canadians who have not had fair treatment, who face inequalities in their daily life. We need to make sure that they have an economic recovery as well, and so you’ll see in our plan we want to see solidarity in communities,” he added.

O’Toole made headlines during a Conservative leadership debate in June 2020 when he wouldn’t say whether he thought systemic racism exists, although he said at the time he had zero-tolerance for racism.

The Liberals have yet to release their full platform, while the online NDP platform includes the word “racism” more than a dozen times, and mentions “Islamophobia” at least twice.

Source: O’Toole says he’s condemned racism in past, when asked why platform makes no mention of it

Ivison: O’Toole’s pro-Canada speech may resonate with voters tired of apologies

Ivison’s take. We shall see.

Of course, it was Conservative governments that started the trend, Mulroney’s apology to Japanese Canadians (and “drive-by” apology to Italian Canadians), and Harper government apologies to Chinese Canadians and a “drive-by” apology to Sikh Canadians, and the most significant, the apology to Indigenous peoples for residential schools. The Liberal government just extended the practice (in contrast to earlier Liberal governments).

The Australian equivalent to “sack-cloth and ashes” is the “black armband” portrayal of history.

That being said, there is a balance between recognizing and acknowledging the negative aspects of our history and present without acknowledging the positive ones:

Erin O’Toole’s leadership pledge to “take back Canada” was viciously lampooned. “Indigenous folks, did you hear Erin O’Toole wants to give you your land back,” quipped one social media satirist.

The slogan may have helped O’Toole get elected leader but its Trumpian undercurrent ensured it was retired after he decided to present a more moderate image to Canadians.

Source: O’Toole’s pro-Canada speech may resonate with voters tired of apologies

Regg Cohn: When it comes to recognizing Islamophobia, some Conservatives recognize that words matter

Of note:

A massacre changes everything. And, sometimes, nothing.

Four years ago, in the face of a Quebec mosque attack that killed six Muslims at prayer, the federal Conservatives closed their eyes and their hearts to the reality — literally — of Islamophobia.

Then-leader Andrew Scheer led the charge against uttering the word Islamophobia. He relied on a pretext of free speech so specious as to be unspeakable today.

What a difference leadership makes — a change of leaders, a change of mind, a change of heart. And another massacre.

Much is being said, now, about how Scheer’s successor, Erin O’Toole, used the word Islamophobia freely and unselfconsciously after this week’s attack against a Muslim family that killed four in London, Ont. O’Toole showed the sensitivity and humanity that were conspicuously absent — in him and his party — back then.

What remains unsaid, however, is that not all Tories were so far behind the times that they were so overdue for change. At the very moment federal Conservatives were playing intemperate word games in Ottawa in 2017, their provincial cousins in the Ontario legislature were displaying tolerance and togetherness in their choice of words.

Then-leader Patrick Brown rallied his Progressive Conservative caucusbehind him to recognize and respect the term Islamophobia, unequivocally and unreservedly, in a legislative vote. How to explain the stark difference between federal and provincial Tories — and the subsequent about-face by O’Toole?

There is no single reason, but there is one common thread: Walied Soliman.

Brown and O’Toole are both close to Soliman, an influential lawyer and persuasive political operator who also happens to be a person of faith. For Soliman, as a Muslim, the massacres were also intensely personal.

“Islamophobia is real,” he wrote on Twitter this week. “Call it out. Call out anyone who doesn’t use the word. Call them out. Shame them. Cut the crap. Enough. If you’ve got a problem using the term you are part of the problem.”

Soliman has known Brown since they were both Young Tories in their twenties, and he later played a key role as Ontario PC chair, helping the party pivot toward broader community outreach. As co-chair of O’Toole’s leadership run, he raised the candidate’s game — and raised money for the campaign.

Soliman tells me he never raised the Islamophobia issue directly with either leader. Perhaps he didn’t have to, knowing that the mere fact that they know him — were thinking about him — might have influenced them.

“They came to their conclusions on their own,” Soliman insists.

But even if he didn’t have to say a word about using the word Islamophobia, they also had to look him in the eye. And they knew what his reaction would be when they said it.

“When they both started talking about it, there was this distinct feeling of happiness that I felt,” Soliman recalls. Even if it took O’Toole a lot longer to find the words, “The first time Erin publicly talked about Islamophobia, it made me very happy.”

It must be said that Soliman himself has been a target for vicious Islamophobia against the backdrop of leadership races and internal policy debates. As chair of the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm — where he has worked with Brian Mulroney, another early champion of tolerance — his high profile attracted slurs about a supposedly hidden agenda for Islamic sharia law.

“I’ve often wondered if my friendships were a burden, that maybe it’d be easier for them if I wasn’t involved, wasn’t a friend,” Soliman muses. But when a person is a friend or a neighbour, he inevitably has influence because “you see them every day, you see their humanity — that’s me.”

The old Conservative word games — the claim in 2017 that Islamophobia was a made-up word because it literally suggests “fear of Islam” — never made sense. Everyone knows what homophobia means to gays who faced discrimination and demonization for centuries, which is why Soliman encouraged Brown to march in a Pride parade.

Not every word must be taken literally. Misogyny means hatred of women, but it is often used interchangeably with sexism, referring to prejudice, discrimination and contempt. The term anti-Semitism is only about 150 years old, but “Jew hatred” goes back centuries and makes the point more powerfully.

The Muslim family killed in London this week had immigrated to Canada from the Islamic State of Pakistan in search of sanctuary. They thought they had found it here, only to be blindsided by bigotry and intolerance, police say, on the streets — on the sidewalk — of an Ontario city.

We live in a time of slogans and slurs. We cannot coexist in a world where words are weaponized or accountability is avoided altogether.

Hate crimes are rising, not falling, but there is a way for us to insulate and inoculate ourselves. It falls to our political leaders to show the way on civility and tolerance, lest we fall victim to the internecine intolerance that we witness in America today.

Democracy alone cannot protect minorities from the perils of majority rule. Only pluralism can preserve our common humanity.

Our leaders must say what needs to be said — on Islamophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and discrimination that badmouth the “other.” And that lead to massacres.

Words matter. Leadership matters.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2021/06/09/when-it-comes-to-recognizing-islamophobia-some-conservatives-recognize-that-words-matter.html

Boswell: O’Toole’s anti-cancel-culture campaign is really a defence of commemorative status quo

Good contrast between virtue signalling on historical figures versus having a more meaningful discussion on options, ranging from removal or relocation accompanied by interpretive placques:

Erin O’Toole launched his campaign for the leadership of the federal Conservatives one year ago today — on Jan. 27, 2020 — with a video message in which he positioned himself as a champion of Canadian heritage and an avowed enemy of “cancel culture”.

The video was filmed in a snowy Major’s Hill Park in downtown Ottawa, with the Parliament Buildings and a statue of Rideau Canal builder Lt.-Col. John By providing background scenery.

Shots of O’Toole walking and talking about his campaign against this evocative backdrop were interspersed with file footage of a controversial statue of Sir John A. Macdonald being hauled away from the entrance of Victoria City Hall after demands from B.C. Indigenous leaders in 2018.

“Who’s going to defend our history, our institutions,” O’Toole asks, “against attacks from cancel culture and the radical left?”

Since O’Toole’s campaign launch 12 months ago with that one-minute, 46-second video — leading up to and following his unexpected victory in the Tory leadership contest in August — the Ontario MP has repeatedly cast himself as a courageous cultural warrior (with a military pedigree, as we are constantly reminded) who is not afraid to fight those bent on “erasing our history.”

It’s become part of O’Toole’s personal brand as party leader and it’s now a central message in Conservative recruitment and fundraising strategies.

The party’s website features a “Stop Cancel Culture” pitch for donations and new members — superimposed on a photo of the recently beheaded Montreal statue of Macdonald — that echoes O’Toole’s mantra: “We can’t keep destroying our history.”

It’s time for a reality check — and a reminder that what O’Toole monolithically characterizes as “our history” is better understood in 21st-century Canada as a multitude of competing versions of the past, seen from a variety of ethnocultural, regional and other perspectives, many of which have really only begun to find expression in Canada’s landscape of commemoration.

O’Toole and his party are misusing the term “cancel culture” to stoke anger, attract followers and cash, and generally energize a reactionary campaign that could thwart a long overdue, orderly reassessment of how we commemorate history in Canada’s public spaces and honourary nomenclature.

Yes, unthinking vandals like those who knocked down the Macdonald statue in Montreal last summer, or have spray-painted graffiti on other Macdonald monuments in Kingston and elsewhere in recent years, have unwittingly given oxygen to O’Toole’s campaign.

But that’s just the extreme end of a broad spectrum of reformists who recognize that hundreds of years of embedded racism in Canadian society is quite unsurprisingly reflected in place names and monuments and other landmarks honouring the 18th– and 19th-century elites of imperial Britain and colonial Canada.

Defacers and destroyers of public monuments should be punished for their crimes, and those who may sympathize with such counterproductive attacks should direct their reformist energies to legitimate processes — at city halls, provincial legislatures, universities — to push for constructive changes to public commemoration.

Unfortunately, O’Toole has also condemned these kinds of moderate reform efforts, conflating his criticism of extremist actions with his attacks on thoughtful, informed, consultative, democratic decision-making that has also been occurring and which must be at the heart of rethinking and revitalizing our public memorials.

This is, in fact, the kind of fair and open process that is being undertaken to determine the fate of the Macdonald statue in Victoria.

The statue had been erected just a few metres from the front entrance of Victoria’s municipal headquarters in 1982 after it was gifted to the city by the B.C.-based Sir John A. Macdonald Historical Society.

To B.C. Indigenous leaders, who had to pass the statue every time they attended meetings of a city committee crafting Victoria’s reconciliation strategy, the unavoidable sight of a bronze tribute to the man they hold chiefly responsible for the cultural genocide of their peoples posed a serious obstacle to their participation in that process.

A 2018 decision by city council to remove the monument was followed by further public consultations in March 2020 about its possible relocation. Then the pandemic put the issue on pause. The statue is likely to be relocated and adorned with a history-balancing plaque once the pandemic eases and final consultations can proceed.

A similar multi-stage decision-making effort was made at Queen’s University in Kingston, where there was overwhelming support from students and faculty members — despite some well-argued dissent during an extensive consultation process — to rename John A. Macdonald Hall, the main law building on campus, out of respect for Indigenous law students.

O’Toole’s churlish reaction? “Another victim of cancel culture,” he tweeted when Queen’s announced the decision, just as he has repeatedly lambasted Victoria for what he falsely insists is “erasing history.”

In a similar case with a different outcome, the citizens of Picton, Ont., were consulted about what should happen to a Macdonald statue in the centre of that town before municipal councillors cast their decisive vote in November. The bronze tribute to Macdonald’s early law career will remain in place alongside “respectful and historically accurate messaging” to be displayed on a plaque offering a more balanced perspective on Macdonald’s legacy. Other initiatives will be undertaken to promote “anti-racist attitudes and inclusiveness of marginalized peoples.”

People of good conscience will disagree. Some communities will remove statues or names. Others will choose a different path. But local decisions for local reasons should prevail, once the public has had an informed, reasoned discussion about the challenges involved in both preserving and balancing Canada’s complicated history in our public commemorations.

Why dismiss such moderate measures as “cancel culture”? Because that’s a term that increasingly conjures negative reactions from free-speech advocates and the broader public. It typically describes a mob-like, online ostracizing of an individual that can happen to just about anyone perceived to have publicly uttered some irredeemably wrong-headed, hurtful remark — or to have committed some unforgivable act — that exposed that person’s alleged racism, misogyny, homophobia or transphobia.

If it seems odd that O’Toole and such luminaries of progressive politics as Noam Chomsky and Gloria Steinem are on the same side of a contemporary cultural debate as opponents of “cancel culture,” be reassured they’re really not.

Conservative politicians in both Canada and the U.S. have appropriated the term for their own purposes.

O’Toole has suggested on several occasions that he is aligned with the likes of Chomsky and Steinem, J.K. Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell and the other signatories of an open letter against increased “censoriousness,” “public shaming” and “illiberalism” in society, which was publishedin Harper’s Magazine last July.

They sounded an alarm about preserving space and freedom in public discourse for thoughtful dissent from absolutist stances on various social, cultural and political issues without fear of ostracization, firing and other forms of career cancellation.

Significantly, the signatories emphasized their support for “powerful protests for racial and social justice” and “wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society,” but expressed worry that certain intolerant voices on the left are pushing their “own brand of dogma or coercion — which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting.”

Canada’s Conservative leader (who typically neglects to mention Margaret Atwood and former federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff as Harper’ssignatories) obviously has a much different agenda than those decidedly non-Conservative individuals do — one that has no real relationship to the internet bullying that the letter-writers are campaigning against.

Yet O’Toole enjoys the supposed company of Atwood, Ignatieff et al. The public figure O’Toole wants to save from social media de-platforming — a certain booze-loving Father of Confederation who genuinely deserves great credit for overcoming linguistic, religious and geographic challenges in forging modern Canada — has been dead since 1891.

“When I launched my campaign in January and said I wanted to stand up to cancel culture and the erosion of our history, the media mocked me for that,” O’Toole said in an Aug. 1 interview.  “And now a few weeks ago … J.K. Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell, 150 prominent authors all signed a letter saying we need to fight back against cancel culture.”

What O’Toole is really doing is exploiting the “cancel culture” debate to rally opposition to anyone messing with the reputation of Macdonald and other Conservative luminaries. In effect, he’s shutting down opportunities to have civil discussions about reconsidering how we do commemoration in Canada, ill-advisedly suggesting citizens should rally around one version of “our history,” and to condemn “erasing our history,” even reasonable efforts to update, diversify and (yes, in some cases) deodorize our commemorative landscape.

Does anyone really think 19th-century slave owners who resisted abolition efforts in Britain and Upper Canada — and were relatively minor figures in Canadian history anyway — should be honoured in the names of Eastern Ontario’s Russell Township, Ottawa’s Rideau-Goulbourn municipal ward, or Vaughan Secondary School in Thornhill?

O’Toole’s interventions in the debate over statues, landmarks and placenames have focused primarily on the reputational fate of Macdonald. But his recent, unguarded remarks on 19th-century Residential Schools promoter Egerton Ryerson — in that ill-fated, leaked November video call to Ryerson University’s young Tories, when he said Residential Schools were “meant to try and provide education” to Indigenous children — were in keeping with O’Toole’s broader aim to defend Canada’s pantheon of patriarchs from adversaries whom he sees as “erasing” such figures from the country’s collective memory.

For O’Toole, this is a partisan battle. The Conservative leader wants to make sure Conservative historical figures such as Macdonald and Hector-Louis Langevin — both men key players in the Confederation story but also tarnished as authors of the Residential Schools tragedy and other racist policies of the 19th century — are held no more responsible for the sins of Canadian history than Liberal icons like Wilfrid Laurier and Pierre Trudeau.

The latter is routinely (and gleefully) mentioned by O’Toole as having been prime minister when several residential schools were opened. This was a key theme in a Facebook Live video he recorded last summer in front of the former Langevin Block in Ottawa, where O’Toole took aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s June 2017 renaming of the building as the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council.

“I was the only one who publicly took a stand against him, because I said if we start this trend of eliminating the history to meet his political narrative, where is it going to end?” he said in a June 30 Facebook Live video message.

“You know who opened more residential schools that Hector Langevin? Your father, Justin! … I don’t see the left demanding Trudeau’s airport be renamed in Montreal. Where do they take their attack? To Conservative icons like Langevin, like Sir John A. Macdonald statues.”

Trudeau’s renaming of Langevin Block was made unilaterally — and thus foolishly — without public consultation or transparency. That’s the kind of move, however well-intentioned, that fuels O’Toole’s torqued rhetoric.

And it’s why communities that have thoughtfully, deliberately, honestly examined the darker chapters of Canadian history are providing a good model for reimagining our commemorative landscape — despite the Conservative leader’s campaign of resistance to change.

Randy Boswell is a Carleton University journalism professor and a former Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News reporter.

Source: O’Toole’s anti-cancel-culture campaign is really a defence of commemorative status quo

Canada urged to offer safe haven to Hongkongers

Needed:

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole is calling on the Canadian government to urgently adopt special measures that provide a safe haven for Hong Kong residents facing persecution under a harsh national security law imposed by China on the former British colony.

Mr. O’Toole said Canada must also be prepared to support the 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong. This would include evacuation assistance if it becomes necessary for Canadian citizens to flee the Asian financial hub as Chinese security forces continue their crackdown on civil rights.

Special immigration and refugee measures are also needed to provide a “lifeboat” for non-Canadian Hongkongers who are being harassed by Chinese security forces and Hong Kong police, he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

“We have to have special provisions,” Mr. O’Toole said. “There is a need for us to provide a refugee route for pro-democracy activists who are now living in a police state and cannot access the process of satisfying the requirements, when dealing with Canadian consular services, to use Express Entry or any other way they can visit Canada.”

It’s been more than three months since Beijing enacted the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security, which criminalizes opposition and dissent in Hong Kong. Western countries including Canada have accused the Chinese government of breaking a treaty with Britain that pledged to leave human and civil rights in Hong Kong untouched for 50 years after the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.

This new law spells trouble for the multitude of Hongkongers who have opposed Beijing’s efforts to erode rights in the Asian city, including the more than 7,000 charged in connection with past protests or those under surveillance by Hong Kong police.

Canada’s arm’s-length Immigration and Refugee Board recently granted asylum to two Hong Kong activists, as The Globe first reported, but their case was unusual in that they came to Canada in late 2019, and neither face charges back home for taking part in pro-democracy protests. More than 45 other activists who arrived before the coronavirus pandemic have also applied to be accepted as refugees.

Mr. O’Toole’s call for immediate action to help Hongkongers comes days after the House of Commons committee on citizenship and immigration voted unanimously to investigate measures to provide a haven for them.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan, who put forward the motion, said the Trudeau government is doing nothing, and Hongkongers are growing desperate.

“It’s been all talk and no action,” she said. “The Liberals always find the right words to say but they never follow up with action.”

There are several hundred thousand Canadians of Hong Kong origin living in Canada and 300,000 Canadian citizens living there now.

Mr. O’Toole said action is needed especially after China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, recently warned Ottawa against granting asylum to pro-democracy dissidents from Hong Kong. Mr. Cong said last week that such action could jeopardize the “health and safety” of 300,000 Canadians living there.

“I have actually met a few people in Canada who cannot return to Hong Kong because they fear for their lives, and knowing what we know about the situation there, I think we have to offer them safe haven,” Mr. O’Toole said.

One problem facing Hongkongers trying to flee now is pandemic travel restrictions that prevent them from boarding an aircraft bound for Canada. Before COVID-19, they could travel to Canada as a tourist and ask for asylum upon arrival – but not any more. They are fearful of declaring their intention to seek asylum while in Hong Kong, where they could be monitored, or are being watched by police, or already face charges for pro-democracy demonstrations.

Another option is for them to apply as economic immigrants through Ottawa’s Express Entry program, but that is a difficult route. Express Entry is for high-talent immigrants and it also requires a certificate from Hong Kong’s police, who are under the thumb of Beijing’s Ministry of Security.

The NDP’s Ms. Kwan hopes Ottawa could set up a system similar to that established by successive governments to help persecuted gay Iranians and Chechens reach Canada. Such a process would allow designate non-governmental organizations to play a role in helping arrange documents for Hongkongers’ passage out of the Asian city, perhaps via a third country.

She also recommends that Ottawa loosen family reunification rules so that a greater number of family relations in Canada could easily sponsor arrivals from Hong Kong. It’s harder for Canadians to sponsor relatives to immigrate to Canada if they are not a spouse, partner or children.

Canadian supporters of Hong Kong dissidents say the problem with using programs such as Express Entry is that applicants from Hong Kong do not generate sufficient points to merit acceptance.

Robert Falconer, a research associate at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy and an external adviser to Alliance Canada Hong Kong, said there could be a solution. If Canada is concerned about China seeing it grant asylum to many dissidents from Hong Kong, and would prefer to bring them in as economic migrants, he said, perhaps there could be a special code that applicants can add to their Express Entry applications. The code would artificially raise the point total so they can be accepted.

Mr. Falconer said groups such as Alliance Canada Hong Kong could be empowered to distribute these codes to dissidents in Hong Kong.

“For all appearance, they would come in as economic-stream immigrants,” he said.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-urged-to-offer-safe-haven-to-hongkongers/

O’Toole’s ‘Lack Of Courage’ Against Bill 21 Frustrates Muslim And Sikh Groups

Of note (and not surprising, “pandering” to Quebec more nationalist voters comes at a cost):

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole ’s tacit support for Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21 caught the National Council of Canadian Muslims by surprise this week, leading it and the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) to denounce the move, saying they are deeply disappointed by the Tory leader’s “lack of courage.”

“It is an absolutely horrific situation that we never thought would happen in Canada, and the fact that none of our federal leaders are really showing the courage to stand up for freedom of religion and to stand up for minority communities, it is very disappointing,” WSO spokesman Balpreet Singh told HuffPost Canada Tuesday.

O’Toole’s comments on Bill 21 came after a meeting with Quebec Premier François Legault in Montreal on Monday. The newly elected leader of the Conservative party said he sought the meeting to “fully understand” the policy debates in the province, including those regarding questions about Quebec identity.

“That is a priority for me, personally,” he told reporters, in French, after the meeting. “We talked about Bill 101 [the French-language law] and Bill 21 [a bill that forbids new employees in certain public-sector jobs, such as teachers, police officers and judges, from wearing religious symbols].

“And I will respect provincial jurisdictions of all provinces, including on laws to protect secularism and the French language. That will be a priority for me, as leader of the opposition,” O’Toole said.

The Tory leader took a much more nuanced stance on whether his party would support a single income tax form for Quebec residents, saying that while he and Legault spoke about it, he would not commit to the proposal.

“I said I will speak to my caucus on that,” he said, declining to state his personal position on the tax form. “I am — I am going to take an approach — because we must protect jobs.  I’m going to talk to my colleagues, I’m going to talk to the unions, with the people in Shawinigan [where an important federal tax centre is located], and I will take a decision after the discussions,” he said.

O’Toole confirmed to journalists he would not intervene in court cases challenging the law.

“No, we have a national unity crisis at the moment, particularly in Western Canada … and we need a government in Ottawa that respects provincial autonomy, and respects provincial legislatures and the national assembly, I will have an approach like that,” O’Toole said. “Personally, I served in the military with Sikhs and other people, so I understand why it is a difficult question, but as a leader you have to respect our Constitution and the partnerships we need to have in Canada. Focus on what we can do together.”

In his Conservative leadership platform, O’Toole pledged to defend religious rights. He said he would bring back the Office of Religious Freedom, a bureau established by Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper within the foreign affairs department. It sought to protect and promote religious rights abroad but was shut down by the Trudeau government. O’Toole called it an “important contribution to global freedom.”

Singh said he believes it shows the Conservative leader’s hypocrisy of standing up for religious rights abroad while ignoring their being trampled at home.

“This is all about votes,” Singh said about the bill, which is now law and enjoys widespread support in the province. “The [federal politicians] are all saying that on an individual personal level they oppose this. Erin O’Toole said he would never do this federally. That is really a cold comfort. I mean if individually we are opposed to it, then collectively should we not do something to make sure that the discrimination ends?”

Singh added that he thought it “even more disturbing” that O’Toole seemed to misunderstand what secularism means.

“If someone thinks that Bill 21 is about secularism, I think they have actually misunderstood what secularism actually means …. Canada doesn’t favour any religious group or any individual based on their faith. This is about excluding people because of their faith. That is not what secularism is all about.”

Both the World Sikh Organization of Canada and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) reached out to O’Toole’s office after his comments to the media. Monday evening, his office sent the groups a statement saying that “Mr. O’Toole has been consistent and clear that he personally disagrees with Bill 21” and that as prime minister, O’Toole would “never introduce a bill like this at the federal level.”

Still, Mustafa Farooq, the CEO of the NCCM, said he was caught by “surprise” by O’Toole’s comments, believing that the new Tory leader was trying to extend an olive branch and a welcome mat to religious communities that haven’t always voted Conservative.

If you’re also not fighting Bill 21, there is a fundamental issue.Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims

Farooq noted that, in his acceptance speech after winning the Tory leadership, O’Toole told Canadians: “I want you to know from the start that I am here to fight for you and your family.”

He then went on to say:

“I believe that whether you are Black, white, brown, or from any race or creed; whether you are LGBT or straight; whether you are an indigenous Canadian or have joined the Canadian family three weeks ago or three generations ago; whether you are doing well, or barely getting by; whether you worship on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays or not at all, you are an important part of Canada, and you have a home in the Conservative party of Canada.”

O’Toole said the Conservative party would always stand for “doing what is right, even when it is not what is easy. That is what Canadians stand for.”

Farooq said O’Toole and the other federal leaders, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, need to stand up for those who are being marginalized.

“You cannot fight for religious freedom or say the words religious freedom and also not come out very strongly in opposition to Bill 21, and that goes for every party leader,” he said.

“He needs to do something to fight it. I want to be unequivocal about that. He and all political leaders in Canada need to clearly state not only that they condemn it and they don’t like it but what they are going to do to fight it.

The federal Liberals have criticized the bill

“It’s not OK when you have one of our provinces in Canada where you have a Jewish man who isn’t allowed to wear a kippah and become a prosecutor, or a Muslim woman wearing a hijab is not allowed to become a police officer,” he added. “Even as we are having these discussions about systemic racism in policing, it’s not possible to have those kinds of conversations, to say that Canadians deserve better and we need change, and not to take an active role in clearly denouncing and consistently condemning Bill 21 for as long as it remains on the books,” Farooq added.

“For anyone that talks about systemic racism or talks about police reform, or anyone that’s talking about protecting constitutional rights… and if you’re also not fighting Bill 21, there is a fundamental issue.”

Farooq and Singh noted that the federal Liberals are “marginally better” on the issue, since the prime minister has opened the door to intervening in the Charter challenges at a later stage, while the Conservative and the NDP leaders are firmly opposed to fighting the bill.

“We feel this is an existential threat to human rights in Canada. The fact that the Canadian government is not intervening in this is disappointing to us … the Liberals have not ruled it out but the Conservatives and the NDP have been clear that they will not interfere,” the WSO spokesman said.

The Charter challenge is scheduled to be heard on Nov. 2 in Quebec Superior Court. The hearing is expected to last four weeks. Most observers expect the case will make its way through to the province’s Court of Appeal and, eventually, the Supreme Court of Canada.

Source: O’Toole’s ‘Lack Of Courage’ Against Bill 21 Frustrates Muslim And Sikh Groups

O’Toole’s goal to ‘triple’ Conservative strength in Quebec built on promises of autonomy

Of note, the comments on secularism (Bill 2 1) and immigration powers:

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole emerged from “a great first meeting” with Quebec Premier François Legault on Monday to say he aims to “double and triple” his party’s Quebec caucus in the next federal election.

The Quebec premier noted that O’Toole told him a Conservative government would not contest Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans the wearing of religious signs by teachers, peace officers, prosecutors, judges and other provincial employees.

As well, O’Toole said he was open to giving Quebec greater powers over immigration and to increasing federal health-care transfers to the provinces.

“We have a national unity crisis, particularly in Western Canada,” O’Toole told reporters regarding his agreement with Legault on Bill 21, immigration, and health-care funding.

“We need a government in Ottawa that respects provincial autonomy, and respects provincial legislatures and the national assembly. I will have an approach like that.

“Personally, I served in the military with Sikhs and other people, so I understand why it’s a difficult question, but as a leader, you have to respect our Constitution and the partnerships we need to have in Canada,” O’Toole said, adding that he will focus “on what we can do together.”

The Legault government is contemplating extending its Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, to cover activities in Quebec under federal jurisdiction, such as banking and federal operations in the province.

Bill 101 requires businesses in the province under provincial jurisdiction to operate in French.

“I told him that large institutions should respect the French-language provisions in Quebec,” O’Toole said, recalling his own experience as a lawyer for the Canadian division of Gillette, the American-owned razor and health products company, which complied with Quebec’s language law.

“Why would banks and airports and others not have to?” he said. “I think it’s a question of respect, and I understand the priority of (protecting) the language, culture and identity.”

….

While O’Toole is onside with Legault on Bill 21, Bill 101, which gives greater immigration powers to the province and more health-care funding from Ottawa, he said he has yet to made up his mind about Legault’s push for a single income-tax return.

Quebec is the only province where residents must file separate returns for federal and provincial taxes.

Legault wants Quebec to collect federal income tax in the province using a single filing.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employes about 6,000 people in the Saguenay and Shawinigan areas of Quebec.

O’Toole said he would discuss the matter with his caucus, along with the union representing CRA employees and the cities involved.

“We have to protect the jobs,” he said. “I will make a decision after the discussions.”

Source: O’Toole’s goal to ‘triple’ Conservative strength in Quebec built on promises of autonomy

What Erin O’Toole gets wrong about the faux-controversy over Netflix’s Cuties

Barry Hertz nails it. And how did O’Toole’s team revert to playing to the base after his initial, and positively reviewed, efforts to expand it. Did any one on his team actually see the film before drafting the tweet?:

I did not want to write this column. Or, more accurately, I did not think that I would have to write this column. But because newly elected Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole decided to send out a terribly ill-informed tweet Saturday afternoon, here I am, wasting my weekend writing about the new French film Cuties, currently streaming on Netflix.

“I’m a dad who is deeply disturbed by this Netflix show,” O’Toole tweeted. “Childhood is a time of innocence. We must do more to protect children. This show is exploitative and wrong.”

Last month, when Netflix unveiled a poster for Maïmouna Doucouré’s directorial debut, which the streaming service acquired after its premiere at January’s Sundance Film Festival, the company came under heavy social-media criticism for marketing that was creepily provocative, if not outright exploitative. Featuring a cadre of preteen girls in skin-tight, midriff-baring dance outfits placed in highly suggestive poses, Netflix’s poster not unfairly sparked concerns that it was sexualizing children.

Yet one marketing mess does not mean Netflix is suddenly trafficking in child porn, which is what an increasingly vocal group of right-leaning U.S. commentators seem to suggest.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri this past Friday issued an openletter to Netflix co-chief executive officer Reed Hastings, saying that Cutiesdepicts “children being coached to engage in simulated sexual acts, for cameras both onscreen and off. Your decision to [stream the film] raises major questions of child safety and exploitation.”

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted the same day that Netflix is “aggressively promoting new movie sexualizing children. Hollywood should not be celebrating & making $$ off of the sexual abuse of 11-year-old girls. This is not OK.” And then there are the denunciations from such American publications as The Daily Caller and Breitbart, which have sparked a #CancelNetflix social-media surge.

Noticing the discourse south of the border the past week, I thought to leave well enough alone. It was clear from the froth and spittle being spent on Cuties outrage that most of those who were calling for Netflix’s head had not bothered to actually watch the film. If they did, and if they spent just one minute to think about Doucouré’s cinematic intent, they would have discovered that the movie excoriates the very thing they claim it propagates.

Cuties is a nuanced, tender and powerful coming-of-age story. Focusing on a young Senegalese child named Amy (Fathia Youssouf) who is torn between her devotion to her religious family and her desire to fit in with her secular Parisian friends, Cuties is a clear indictment of the choices that contemporary society forces upon young girls. Pressured by peers and myriad outside forces to sexualize themselves far too early, Amy and her friends fall into a trap of faux self-actualization. Eventually, Amy comes to the realization that speeding up her adulthood through provocative clothing and twerking is no substitute for the bonds of family, and the innocence of childhood.

Is the film at times uncomfortable to watch? Definitely, which is how Doucouré conveys her central message. By getting under her audience’s skin, by making them question what Amy goes through on-screen, the filmmaker is asking viewers to consider their own role in what society demands of its youth. Ultimately, it comes down to a guiding philosophy of art: depiction does not equate endorsement.

For their part, Netflix quickly scrapped its truly terrible poster and offered a mea culpa, with the company’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos apologizing directly to Doucouré for so badly misadvertising her work. But marketing and the content that is being marketed are two very different things – a distinction that evades the current outrage machine.

Still, I naively assumed that the increasingly ludicrous debate was a distinctly American problem. Canadian readers didn’t need to be dragged into the muck. But then on Saturday came the tweet from O’Toole, who apparently has nothing better to do during a pandemic than stoke a culture war with misleading embers.

I am willing to eat my hat, live-streamed on this very website, if O’Toole has actually spent the 96 minutes it takes to watch Cuties. If he has, then his tweet suggests that he has spent exactly zero seconds thinking about it – or, worse yet, that perhaps he does not retain the capacity to think critically about anything. (Given the fact that he twice refers to Cuties as a “show” and not a movie only emboldens my hat-eating gambit.)

Either way, O’Toole’s decision to latch onto the issue reveals a disturbing vision of what he thinks the Conservative Party of 2020 should be spending its time on. It is a false controversy, spread by either ignorance or willful manipulation, helped along in certain U.S. corners by the QAnon conspiracy movement, a subculture so mired in stupidity that I won’t waste another sentence on it in this column.

As of this writing, O’Toole’s tweet has more than 700 retweets and 2,000 favourites. I shudder to think how far its faux outrage might spread come Monday morning.

But just as I’m arguing that you shouldn’t listen to O’Toole, I’ll also admit that you don’t have to listen to me, either. Queue up Cuties on Netflix, and think for yourself.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/article-what-erin-otoole-gets-wrong-about-the-faux-controversy-over-netflixs/

Gurski: Why Canada should not be in a hurry to re-embrace Saudi Arabia

Good piece by Gurski:

I never worked in foreign affairs or for Foreign Affairs (or Global Affairs Canada, as it is now known, having once been designated External Affairs and many other names), but I know a little about the subject. After all, you cannot work in intelligence for three decades without picking up a thing or two on how nations manage their relations with other states.

I do know that at times a country has to hold its nose when engaging with a foreign partner whose actions are seen as, at a minimum, distasteful or, at a maximum, grotesque. In this light, I cannot imagine how the current crew at the Lester B. Pearson Building in Ottawa are handling Canada-U.S. ties, given the present occupant of the White House.

There are also those who maintain that some level of relationship is better than none. A complete cut in ties removes any form of influence or dialogue, although there are other fora (the UN for example) where national representatives can grab a coffee and chitchat about all things statecraft.

On the other hand, there are times and circumstances where a government has little choice but to close doors. Sometimes a state will engage in activities that are truly heinous and no country should allow such to go unpunished.

Saudi Arabia is now in that club. Canada has chosen, at least under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to criticize the kingdom over a variety of incidents; ranging from its treatment of women activists, to its disastrous war in Yemen, which is directly causing a massive humanitarian crisis. The event that overshadows everything, however, is last year’s murder and dismemberment of a Saudi dissident, Jamal Kashoggi, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Everyone knows that he was killed on orders from the very top of the Saudi royal family, their incredulous denials, notwithstanding. In return, the Saudis have suspended relations, booted our ambassador in Riyadh out and recalled their own man from Ottawa. There has not been a lot of movement on this file in some time although Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her Saudi counterpart have been “discussing ideas to de-escalate.”

Into this mix comes the Conservative Party, whose foreign affairs critic, Conservative MP Erin O’Toole, has said that a government led by Andrew Scheer will try to “win some trust” with the Saudis by focusing on improving business links. O’Toole acknowledges that for some Canadians re-establishing ties with Saudi Arabia will be a “tough sell.”

Ya think?

I fail to see why so many states are still fawning over Saudi Arabia, and especially over the king-in-waiting and international star Muhammad bin Salman (or MBS as he is called: some say the acronym stands for “Mister Bone Saw,” a reference to how Kashoggi was cut up). Yes, yes, it is all about oil and MBS’ plans to modernize his nation and the need to have a stalwart ally against the real menace: Iran.

Except that the crown prince’s words are probably just that: words. Saudi Arabia remains a heavily conservative Wahhabi Muslim state that has exported its hateful strain of Islam worldwide for decades and crushes any internal dissent forcefully. True, there has been some crackdown on the more egregious religious hate-mongers, but this leopard is highly unlikely to change its spots any time soon.

I find it hard to believe that many governments, including the U.S., have been giving the kingdom a pass in the post 9/11 period. Recall that 15 of the 19 hijackers that fateful day on Sept. 11, 2001, were Saudis, bred on Saudi Wahhabi Islam. And for all the noises about a mellowing of Islam in the desert kingdom, there is ample evidence that Saudi-trained imams are continuing to spread Wahhabi poison around the world. And this is what an ally does?

I realize that money trumps values a lot of the time. In this regard, there is a lot of money to be made by having a robust relationship with Saudi Arabia, particularly in the defence sector. But what is more important: trade or the values Canada stands for?

So O’Toole, if your party indeed gains power in October, have a re-think over going cap in hand to the Saudis. We really don’t need them. Their actions are antithetical to who we are. I’d like to suggest that you be a little more Canadian yourself and ditch this idea.

Source: Why Canada should not be in a hurry to re-embrace Saudi Arabia

Canada’s immigration detention program to get $138M makeover

Another shift compared to the previous government:

The Canadian government is committing millions to upgrade immigration detention centres across Canada.

Immigration detention facilities in Vancouver and Laval, Que., are also set to be replaced.

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the $138-million announcement Monday morning at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre. He said the objective is to make detention a last resort.

“In my first few months as minister responsible for Canada Border Services Agency, I have certainly heard the concerns about immigration detention, and I’ve studied those concerns with great care,” Goodale said.

“The government is anxious to address the weaknesses that exist and to do better.”

Samer Muscati, the director of the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program, said it was reassuring to hear Goodale address concerns about excessive use of detention in his remarks today.

“He’s saying the right things and it’s a positive development that he’s saying these things, but of course we’ll need to see what happens in terms of actions that follow,” he said. “The proof will be in the pudding.”

The government will soon begin consultations with stakeholders with the aim of finding alternatives and ways to minimize the number of minors in detention.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, there are, on average, 450 to 500 people who are detained at any given time under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The End Immigration Detention Network says 15 people have died in detention while in CBSA custody since 2000. It says reforms are welcome, but the system is inherently unfair.

“Immigration detention including in immigration holding centres is imprisonment without charges or trial. It should end, not be expanded by throwing over a hundred million dollars at it,” said the Network’s spokesperson Tings Chak.

A Red Cross investigation in 2014 found numerous shortcomings at facilities for immigrant detainees, including overcrowding and inadequate mental health care.

Newcomers are often held in provincial jails or police facilities alongside suspected gang members and violent offenders.

The government’s reform objectives include:

  • Increasing the availability of alternatives to detention.
  • Reducing the use of provincial jails for immigration detention to prevent the interaction of immigration and criminal detainees.
  • Avoiding the detention of minors in the facilities as much as possible.
  • Improving physical and mental health care offered to those detained.
  • Maintaining ready access to facilities for agencies such as the Red Cross, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as well as legal and spiritual advisers.
  • Increasing transparency.

Source: Canada’s immigration detention program to get $138M makeover – Montreal – CBC News

A selection of more critical views, largely focusing on the need for oversight:

Migrants advocates welcome Ottawa’s reforms of the immigration detention system, but say the government is falling short on creating proper oversight of the agency responsible for the enforcement operations.

“It is encouraging the federal government is promising actions and reforms to the immigration detention system. Detention of immigrants needs to be absolutely the last resort and the government recognizes that,” said Josh Paterson of the British Colombia Civil Liberties Association.

“The thing is we need to put an end to housing migrants in criminal population. The money dedicated to the immigration infrastructure must not become the reason to detain more migrants and for longer period of time.”

….Anthony Navaneelan of the Canadian Association for Refugee Lawyers said what was missing in Goodale’s announcement was creating an independent oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency, which is responsible for enforcement of immigration laws including immigration detention.

“Building more detention beds is not enough. We need to keep people out of detention,” said Navaneelan.

 New Democrats immigration critic Jenny Kwan agreed.

“We need a complete and strong oversight to ensure these issues are addressed and the agency is accountable to the public. So many lives are in jeopardy,” said Kwan.

In July, more than 50 immigration detainees in Ontario held a hunger strike to protest prison conditions that include increasing lockdowns and the use of solitary confinement. They demanded to meet with Goodale — a request that was denied.

“We need an overhaul of the laws and policies governing detentions, including placing a limit of 90 days on detentions, not build new prisons,” said Tings Chak of the End Immigration Detention Network.

“Immigration detention is imprisonment without charges or trial. It should end, not be expanded by throwing over a hundred million dollars at it.”

Ontario Human Rights Commission chief commissioner Renu Mandhane said the federal government should be applauded for recognizing the need to provide adequate services to immigration detainees with mental health disabilities.

“We need to make detention more humane. Some detainees are caught in legal limbo for years,” Mandhane said. “They are faceless and hidden from the public, but their human rights should be respected.”

Conservative public security critic Erin O’Toole said there was no money in the federal budget earmarked for the immigration detention reforms and he felt the Liberal government was rushed to make the announcement without a plan.

“The devil is always in the details. This is a considerable amount of money,” said O’Toole. “A community supervision program has not been developed. Are we going to detain only the high-risk detainees? Are we going to stop using the provincial jails? These are the details I want before we decide if we need to build the new facilities.”

Immigration detention reforms fall short on oversight, critics say