Canada’s Governor General to speak about immigration and reconciliation at event in Calgary

Of note:
Canada’s Governor General will speak at an event in Calgary on Thursday about the complex relationship between immigration and reconciliation.
Calgary was chosen as the location for this year’s LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, hosted by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), because of the city’s exceptional work connecting Indigenous people and newcomers, said the ICC’s CEO Daniel Bernhard.

Source: Canada’s Governor General to speak about immigration and reconciliation at event in Calgary

Ms. Payette and Mr. Scheer: Science and religion can – and should – co-exist: Peter McKnight

The most balanced commentary I have seen on the GG controversy by McKnight, a former Templeton-Cambridge fellow in science and religion at the University of Cambridge:

My horoscope warned me that I’m likely to offend everyone today, so here goes: Governor-General Julie Payette is wrong. And so are her critics.

In a speech attacking anti-scientific sentiments in society, Ms. Payette riffed on astrology and climate change skeptics and, in the interest of complete self-immolation, tackled religious belief by saying: “We are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”

As many critics have charged, Ms. Payette’s language was impolitic to say the least. Her incredulous “oh my goodness” suggests she’s shocked – shocked, I tell you – that anyone might think God had something to do with life. But I’ll leave it to others to discuss the proper decorum for a governor-general.

I’d rather discuss science and religion. And on the former subject, I’m not even sure of what science Ms. Payette was referring to. That “random process” business sounds like evolution by natural selection, which, as any biologist can tell you, is as well confirmed as any scientific theory.

Or perhaps she was referencing the origin of life, which is the province of abiogenesis, not natural selection. And as any biologist can also tell you, abiogenesis is not nearly a settled matter.

But here’s the rub: As scientists work on abiogenesis or any other scientific theory, they won’t appeal to divine intervention – because they can’t. Science, as the study of the natural world, permits consideration only of natural causes – causes involving matter, energy and their interaction. Scientists must therefore resist any appeal to supernatural causes, be they God, karma or voodoo.

This approach, known as methodological naturalism, has proven tremendously successful, allowing us to predict and control much of the natural world. But it doesn’t mean that supernatural causes don’t exist; it only means that science must, by its own choosing, remain silent about the supernatural.

And indeed, many scientists who are faithful to the methodological naturalist approach are also faithful to God, because they recognize that the supernatural lies beyond science, that when science tries to squeeze God out of the equation, it is overstepping its bounds. This, it seems, is Ms. Payette’s faux pas: She may know a lot about science, but she evidently doesn’t know where science ends.

That’s only half the story. Ms. Payette’s critics make the same mistake, from the other side. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, for example, spoke of “faith groups who believe there is truth in their religion” and opined that “respect for diversity includes respect for the diversity of religious beliefs.”

Now where to begin with that? How about here: Mr. Scheer is effectively equating respect for people with respect for opinions. That’s more than a little ironic coming from a conservative: Remember when the left was rightly ridiculed for promoting exactly this sentiment – “viewpoint discrimination” – which means we must accept all opinions as equal?

But more to the point, if religion is going to use its theories to explain the natural world – to overstep its bounds and compete with science on its own turf – then it ought to be criticized, for criticism is essential to science. Unfortunately, though, if the United States is any example, the prohibition on viewpoint discrimination has taken hold. So we see “religious freedom” laws that demand equal time for evolution and creationism in science classes. After all, these are two opinions about the nature of life, and all opinions are equal, right?

Religious freedom laws are, of course, disastrous for science. But the attempt to compete with science on its own turf, the failure to recognize where religion ends, is also detrimental to religion: It presents an impoverished view of God, one where the divine becomes part of nature rather than something transcendent, something beyond the natural world. And worse, it draws religion away from the big questions that lie beyond science, the moral and metaphysical questions that have preoccupied the religious for millennia.

Rather than engaging in turf wars, as Ms. Payette and Mr. Scheer seem destined to do, perhaps we should consider how science and religion can co-exist and, indeed, complement each other. Science, after all, teaches us about the nature of life, about what we are and how we came to be, while religion teaches us about the nature of living, about who we are and how we ought to behave. And we need both. In their rightful places.

via Ms. Payette and Mr. Scheer: Science and religion can – and should – co-exist – The Globe and Mail

Pluralism is a path to lasting peace and prosperity: Outgoing Governor General Johnston

Well stated:

A predecessor, Vincent Massey, once said: “Canada is not a melting pot. Canada is an association of peoples who have, and cherish, great differences but who work together because they can respect themselves and each other.” Today we call this pluralism, and I believe Canada’s opportunity lies in its ability to show the world how pluralism is a viable path to lasting peace and prosperity. Canada is a social innovation, a constantly evolving work-in-progress based upon the notion that diverse peoples can live and work together toward an ever-more inclusive, fair and just society.

Of course, we have no cause for complacency. Intolerance does exist here and it is essential that we resist efforts to reduce diversity and restrict inclusiveness. Canada’s progress as a country has always grown from a commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and pluralism. Success in such a vast, diverse and challenging land requires that we work together. This is the story of our country and it’s important that we know and understand its uniqueness, significance and how embedded the principles of partnership and compromise are in the very fabric of Canada. This is the path forward.

There are two related, critical elements that Canada should pay close attention to in the years to come: learning and trust. As a lifelong student and teacher, I believe education is the key to ensuring equality of opportunity for all Canadians and to achieving the pinnacles of excellence that allow us to innovate and lead in a technologically advanced world. From early-childhood education and literacy to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to research at the outer limits of knowledge, we must make learning a central part of our lives. Doing so will reinforce the second critical element – trust – by which I mean trust in one another and in the institutions which are the glue that binds Canadians together. Inequalities and the rapid changes brought about by globalization have undermined trust in Canada and throughout much of the world, but a society that learns and works together in an inclusive manner will see the basis for that sense of mistrust replaced by a sense of hope.

So, what have I learned as Governor-General? One, while Canada still has much work to do in building a more inclusive society, our diversity is a strength and a comparative advantage in the world. Two, in Canada, past, present and no doubt future, we’re stronger and more prosperous when we compromise and work together. And three, despite our many cultures, ethnic origins and languages spoken, we all have a great deal in common – a great deal called Canada. Let this be a country that draws on the diverse talents and abilities of all its peoples in steering a course through this complex, changing world.

Source: Pluralism is a path to lasting peace and prosperity – The Globe and Mail

Canada wasn’t — and isn’t — ready for an Indigenous governor general: Robert Jago

An overly negative take or a realistic one?

Did Indigenous-origin provincial lieutenant governors such as Ontario’s James Bartlemen make a difference or not?

Jago is correct to note the dangers of assuming that such an appointment signals the end of racism and discrimination, as in his citing of Obama. But do symbols have no value? Can they not contribute to greater awareness and thus lead to some measure of change, or help enable change?:

While it’s good to see these views present in the governing party, and good to see Indigenous MPs free to speak publicly in support of this position, their conclusion — that the appointment of an Indigenous governor general would be a positive symbol of a changing Canada — is wrong.

Sure, an Indigenous governor general would be a symbol, but primary one to non-Natives — to white Canada — and a dangerous one that could derail reconciliation, at that.

Canada might receive its first Indigenous governor general in much the same way that the U.S. received its first black president. When Barack Obama was elected back in 2008, the message to American people of colour was that change was possible and that we’re powerful enough to elect one of our own: a person who knows our struggles and our ambitions, and who can help to pave the way for others.

But while a symbol of hope and change to black America, Obama was also a symbol to many in white America that racism had been conquered. In a 2008 Forbes Magazine article entitled “Racism in America is Over,” Manhattan Institute fellow John McWhorter wrote: “Our proper concern is not whether racism still exists, but whether it remains a serious problem. The election of Obama proved, as nothing else could have, that it no longer does.”

In the same vein, I have no doubt whatsoever that had an Indigenous person been appointed as governor general, Canada’s mostly white commentariat would be falling over themselves to declare that racism in Canada is “over,” too. Especially since, even now, the idea that racism in Canada never really existed is mainstream enough to be given space in a newspaper. In the Vancouver Sun, for example, Douglas Todd recently wrote, “It’s hard to think of a more treacherous single story about B.C. than the one alleging racism is alive and well.”

Racism clearly exists in Canada today, and it is far from over. The week that Payette was named governor general was the same week that Barbara Kentner — a victim of what many Indigenous people see as a racially motivated murder — was buried. At the time of writing, Thunder Bay police has yet to file murder charges in her death (the only charges laid so far have been of aggravated assault).

And while many non-Natives work to downplay the existence of racism in Canada, Kentner’s death, along with that of Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan, and of Cindy Gladue in Alberta, are just a few recent examples of what Indigenous people see as racially motivated killings.

These acts of racism demand urgent action, and signalling to white Canada that the job of reconciliation is done, and racism is over, is not the urgent action required. Instead it is a window dressing: camouflage for a state of affairs that treats Indigenous lives cheaply, and one in which the change that Indigenous people need is no closer than it was under the Stephen Harper regime.

All of the symbolism, none of the power

Unlike in the case of the first black president, the first Indigenous governor general would have no power to make any changes whatsoever. True, some past governors general have been able to highlight or bring greater attention to certain issues, but they can’t direct funding, write policy or introduce new laws. He or she would have all of the symbolism with none of the power.

The Trudeau administration has burdened Indigenous peoples with one symbolic gesture after another. As with the failed inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, these symbolic gestures have stripped important issues of urgency in the imagination of the non-Native public. Changing the name of Langevin block does not restore clean drinking water to one First Nations home; seeing Justin Trudeau in his buckskin fringe acknowledging unceded Algonquin territory does not prevent one suicide. When it comes to “real change” on the ground, this government is short on results.

There will come a time when Canada is ready for an Indigenous governor general, but that appointment should be a capstone to mark real achievements toward equality; not just another symbolic gesture that gives the illusion of progress, while distracting people from the real work we all have to do.

Source: Canada wasn’t — and isn’t — ready for an Indigenous governor general – CBC News | Opinion

Canadians’ response to refugee crisis, niqab debate showed ‘who we really are,’ GG says

Although the Twitterverse correctly noted that the political aspect of these remarks is inappropriate for a Governor General, nevertheless hard to disagree with the substance:

Gov. Gen. David Johnston says he was initially worried that the niqab debate and the tone of the discussion about the Syrian refugee crisis during the election would hurt Canada’s reputation as a fair and inclusive society.

Johnston made the comments in an exclusive interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge for The National, explaining that ultimately he was reassured by the way Canadians responded.

“Look at the outcome of those two, quote, crises,” Johnston said. “Look at how Canada has managed the Syrian refugee crisis in an exemplary way.

“And look at the debate with respect to the niqab. I think Canada showed its strength, that that should not be, should not sidetrack us from who we really are.”

Johnston added that even though the niqab debate has passed he remains concerned about the possible introduction of ideas that would hurt Canada’s reputation.

“I continue to worry about any initiatives that would cause us to be small-minded, and to lose that sense of A, inclusiveness, B, fairness, C, equality of opportunity,” Johnston said, while warning against any sense of complacency.

“I think we must work constantly to overcome that and to have the larger view, but I’m very optimistic that those voices, those ideas are by no means scarce in Canada. I find them abundant,” he said in the interview airing tonight on The National.

Source: Canadians’ response to refugee crisis, niqab debate showed ‘who we really are,’ GG says – Politics – CBC News

Justin Trudeau says next GG will ‘reflect the diversity of Canada’

Clear message and consistent with record so far:

In a Friday announcement in Toronto, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at the nature of the coming change-up in the governor general’s office.

Trudeau said the next appointment would express Canada’s diversity and referenced the answer he gave last November when he was asked why he created a cabinet with equal number of men and women.

“I suspect I might be saying ‘because it’s 2017’ when the time for that decision [on the Governor General] comes around to be explained,” he said.

“I can reassure you, I will take into account the nature of Canada and the desire of Canadians to see institutions and appointments across the government that reflect the diversity of Canada,” said Trudeau.

“We appoint people who look like Canada, who understand the extraordinary diversity of Canada and highlight the amazing fact that Canada is one of the few (places) in the world that is made stronger because of its differences.”

Trudeau commended current Gov. Gen. David Johnston on the work he’s done to represent Canada, push innovation and work on youth issues.

“He’s doing an exceptional job and I’m proud to have him as our Governor General,” said Trudeau, noting that he’ll have big shoes to fill when the time comes.

Source: Justin Trudeau says next GG will ‘reflect the diversity of Canada’ – Politics – CBC News

Order of Canada Appointments 2015 – Diversity lens

Media commentary largely focused on gender and regional diversity as can be expected. The lengthy process involved (about a year) means that this largely took place under the previous government (although the process and decisions are under the GG).

Looking at regional diversity, as some have noted, Ontario and Atlantic Canada are over-represented in relation to their share of the population:

Order of Canada 2015.001

Looking at gender, indigenous and visible minority representation, both women and indigenous representation are relatively close to their share of the population.

However, visible minorities, whether measured against the overall number (19.1 percent) or the number who are Canadian citizens (15 percent), are under-represented at 5.8 percent. (Note: this analysis was based on names and descriptions and not correlated against photos and thus may understate representation).

Order of Canada 2015.002

This is not surprising, given that visible minorities have a shorter history in Canada than other ethnic groups and thus less time to make the kind of contributions that the Order recognizes. But, like other open nomination processes, it may also reflect fewer nominations, in turn reflecting less awareness among visible minorities regarding the Order.

Hard to say without more data but suggests that more outreach to get more nominations may be warranted.

Order of Canada Appointments

The integration of refugees affirms Canada as a caring society: Governor General Johnston

Governor General David Johnston, with the new government’s diversity and inclusion messaging:

Perhaps the bigger challenge we face is the long-term project of positioning our new Syrian-Canadian friends for success in their new country. And just as effective integration poses a significant challenge, so does it present a significant opportunity for Canada. Remember, great nations are built on great challenges.

The great opportunity we have in taking on the challenge of integrating new Canadians is simply this: It’s a chance to revisit and renew our commitment to being a smart, caring and inclusive society, not just for Syrian refugees, but for all Canadians, including the most vulnerable and marginalized among us.

The challenge of integrating refugees is the latest chapter in the continuing experiment we call Canada. At its heart, it’s an experiment in building an inclusive society of opportunity for diverse peoples. Consider our country’s roots. John Ralston Saul calls Canada a “Métis civilization.” Our national character is inclusive and mixed – and strong as a result. In their book Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue that politically and economically inclusive societies thrive, while exclusive and extractive societies fail.

But perhaps the most compelling argument I’ve heard of late for rededicating ourselves to building a society of inclusive opportunity comes from a parent in Syria, whose son recently received a refugee scholarship to study at the University of Alberta. In thanks, the parent wrote: “You have pulled my son out of the hell, where he has been taking daily a high dose of risk, tension, worries and sorrow. The wheels of the war have crushed everything; the human and the stones, but not the heart and soul and never the will and hope.”

So to answer the question “How does Canada build a diverse and inclusive society?” I remember “why” we do it: Because it’s both the right and the smart thing to do. Now together, let’s reimagine how.


Source: The integration of refugees affirms Canada as a caring society – The Globe and Mail

Why 13 new citizens decided to become Canadian

Nice profile in the Globe of a number of new citizens at a citizenship ceremony hosted by the Governor General and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship:

‘Canadian citizenship is valued the world over, and with good reason. This is a society that values equality of opportunity and excellence, and that sees diversity as a virtue rather than a weakness. In Canada, inclusiveness is a key value, which means that every Canadian citizen should have the opportunity to help shape this country for the better, regardless of background or ethnicity.’ – Governor-General David Johnston

Why 13 new citizens decided to become Canadian – The Globe and Mail.