Alt-right uses flimsy evidence to fuel jihad conspiracy theory in Toronto van attack: Graeme Hamilton

One of several articles picking up on this “too quick to fit into a narrative” approach of the alt-right and fellow conspiracy travellers:

When a van plowed into pedestrians over a long stretch of Toronto sidewalk Monday, many immediately assumed it was the work of a terrorist following in the tracks of lone-wolf jihadists in Europe and the United States.

A portrait has since emerged of the accused, Alek Minassian, as someone motivated not by radical Islam but more likely by sexual frustration and social awkwardness.

Yet in the darker corners of the web, where conspiracy theories take hold, alt-right voices cling to the flimsiest evidence to suggest Canadian authorities are covering up what was actually an Islamist attack.

On Tuesday afternoon, Robert Spencer of the Jihad Watch web site drew on courtroom sketches to imply that the man who was charged Tuesday was not the same one arrested Monday. The key for him was that the sketches showed the suspect with hair while the man arrested had appeared bald.

“Was Minassian supplied a toupee in court today? . . . Was he wearing a bald wig yesterday? Or are authorities once again not being honest with us?” Spencer wrote.

“Again, I’m not saying that this is necessarily a jihad attack. But as oddities such as these court sketches multiply, we have to wonder what the Canadian authorities are trying to hide. And what else are authorities hiding when jihad attacks occur?”

In an earlier post, Spencer had written that it is “likely that this was not a jihad attack.” But after being asked on Twitter Wednesday whether he thought the man arrested and the man in court were different people, he replied, “I have no idea. But something very odd is going on.”

The internet provides fertile ground for those inclined to see a jihadi in every corner and a false flag on every ship. American mass shootings from Sandy Hook to Parkland have been fodder for conspiracy theorists, and Canada is not immune.

After the 2017 attack on a Quebec City mosque by a white francophone gunman, Alexandre Bissonnette, a theory stubbornly took hold that there had been a second, Muslim, gunman. Police clarified that the arrest at the scene of a Muslim man was a mix-up – he was a worshipper who had been helping victims and ran off thinking the police officer was the gunman returning. But the Canadian right-wing news site The Rebel repeatedly peddled the theory that there was more to the story. Even today, after Bissonnette pleaded guilty and a courtroom saw security video of the attack, the Rebel site asks, “What are the facts? And can we trust the mainstream media to tell us the truth about such a controversial and sensitive subject?”

The most vocal advocate of the theory that Toronto suffered a jihadi attack has been Alex Jones, whose InfoWars site is a breeding ground for alt-right conspiracy theories. Jones was in the middle of a Periscope live-stream Monday when Minassian’s name was first reported. He had been analyzing cell phone video of the arrest, concluding that the suspect spoke with “a classic Middle Eastern accent.”

When the name was published, and an associate informed Jones it was a common Armenian surname (less than one per cent of Armenians are Muslim), Jones dismissed the information and said it was an Iranian/Turkish name.

“So, another Islamic truck attack,” he concluded. “They’ll try to sweep it under the rug, but we won’t let it be swept under the rug. The truth will get out.”

As more of the truth came out in the following hours, indicating no Islamist connection, Jones stuck to his “Islamic terror attack” narrative. Pronouncing Minassian’s first name “Aleek” to make it sound Arabic, he suggested there was something suspicious in the fact that the arresting officer had not killed him: “I’m asking the question, why is this guy not dead? And why haven’t we learned his religion?”

On Wednesday afternoon, the fourth most popular item on the InfoWars site was: “Video of Truck Attack: Suspect Has Middle Eastern Accent.”

The fomenters of conspiracy theories often rely on the tactic of simply “asking the question,” letting their followers fill in the desired answer.

In Canada, a contributor to the Vlad Tepes blog — run by a frequent Rebel contributor who writes there under the name Victor Laszlo – commented Tuesday that the Toronto attacker followed the Islamic State modus operandi to the letter.

“(He) looked like an IS jihadi but our government released the clean cut school photo to push the mental illness narrative, which is patent BULL—-,” wrote contributor Eeyore, who is described as a “counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist.”

Many alt-right commentators were quick to declare the attack the work of a jihadi, including Rebel and InfoWars contributor Paul Joseph Watson, who accused Toronto Mayor John Tory of “virtue signalling” after “a jihadist has just killed nine people.” His Rebel colleague Katie Hopkins, a Brit, tweeted Tuesday morning mocking a message of sympathy from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and reinforcing the notion that it was an Islamist attack.

“You brought this. You are complicit in it. Politicians like you are terrorist shills,” she wrote.

On Wednesday, Trudeau declined to comment on the ongoing police investigation. “A lot of people have questions as to why, and there may or may not be actual answers,” he warned. Which is music to the ears of the conspiracy theorists eager to fill the void.

Source: Alt-right uses flimsy evidence to fuel jihad conspiracy theory in Toronto van attack

A similar piece by Stephen Maher: Toronto van attack: The rush to blame immigrants and Muslims after a mass killing

Ban the niqab, keep the cross? | National Post

Good long read by Graeme Hamilton:

Until last summer, the Cyclorama of Jerusalem in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Que., was largely unloved. Visitors to the massive 360-degree panoramic depiction of Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s crucifixion were growing scarce, and those who paid the $12 admission often left disappointed.

“It was just bizarre and I would not recommend,” one critic wrote on Trip Advisor last year. “This painting is from another era when pilgrims flocked from all over and were believers, which is not the case these days,” another wrote in August. Compared to the soaring Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica next door, the Cyclorama was a kitschy eyesore.

But then something strange happened. News broke at the beginning of August that the Cyclorama was up for sale and that the owners were looking for a foreign buyer to pack up the crucifixion panorama and move it elsewhere. Instead of a shrug, the news was met with instant mobilization. A group of academics called on the province to buy the Cyclorama before it was lost, and the minister of culture declared it a “heritage jewel.” Attendance jumped. And two weeks after the first news reports of the sale, the government announced that the attraction built in the late 19th-century would be protected as an official heritage site. The government is now in discussions with the owners about providing financial aid for upgrades to the building.

The swift intervention to save a religiously themed tourist attraction seems odd for a province that prides itself on its secularism — or laïcité in French. Indeed, the drive to limit the place of religion in the public sphere is shaping up to be a central issue in next year’s election. The Liberal government of Philippe Couillard passed its religious neutrality act, Bill 62, in October preventing women who wear the niqab or burka from providing or receiving government services, and the opposition Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec have promised even stricter legislation if elected.

The Cyclorama of Jerusalem outside Quebec City. (

But there are frequent reminders that secularism in Quebec comes with an asterisk. Typically, the religions that need to be restricted are those of minorities – Muslims, Sikhs, Jews. More often than not they are practiced by relative newcomers to Quebec. And despite the conventional wisdom that Quebecers broke free from the yoke of the Catholic Church in the Quiet Revolution, a stubborn attachment to Christian symbols remains, leading critics to label Quebec’s secularism “catho-laïcité.”

In the aftermath of the adoption of Bill 62, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of the left-wing Québec Solidaire party, saw an opportunity to correct what he saw as a glaring contradiction. The law targeting niqab-wearing Muslims in the name of religious neutrality was adopted in a legislature where a crucifix hangs prominently behind the Speaker’s chair. (A judge last week suspended the application of the niqab ban until another section of the law comes into force.) Citing the need for a “separation of powers between religion and the state,” Nadeau-Dubois called for legislators to debate moving the crucifix out of the legislative chamber, which is known as the Salon Bleu because of its blue walls. His motion went nowhere when the Liberals and CAQ refused to grant the unanimous consent required to debate it. “It’s part of the history of the Salon Bleu,” Liberal member Serge Simard explained to Radio-Canada. “It’s part of the history of Quebec.”

The Quebec flag backdropped by a church near Sacre-Couer-de-Jesus, Que. (Mike Drew/Postmedia)

Haroun Bouazzi is head of Association of Muslims and Arabs for a Secular Quebec. In principle, he says, secularism should be a positive thing for minority religions, protecting freedom of belief while shielding the state from the influence of any one sect. But what he has witnessed in Quebec in recent years is secularism being invoked by politicians and opinion leaders to oppress rather than protect. Seeing Bill 62 adopted under a crucifix was the height of hypocrisy, Bouazzi says. “How can you be so strict about secularism that you want to put people out of a job because they have chosen to believe something, and then vote that specific (law) under a cross?” he asks. “Sadly, secularism seems to be invoked just to take away rights from religious minorities and not for the right things.”

When Bouazzi arrived in Quebec from his native Tunisia in 2000, he absorbed the standard Quebec history of a 1960s rupture with the once powerful church, which led to a commitment to secularism. He now sees that account as a myth. “It’s not true that all Quebecers got rid of religion,” he says.

Solange Lefebvre, a religious studies professor at the Université de Montréal, agrees. “It’s not true that religion has been abandoned. That infuriates me,” she says. “That is the myth of the Quiet Revolution, spread even by academics sometimes.” As the “simplistic” story goes, Quebecers were in darkness until the Quiet Revolution, then they saw the light, were emancipated from religion and fashioned a skilled bureaucracy to perform functions previously controlled by the church. Lefebvre says the actual story is more nuanced because the influence of religion is felt on multiple levels.

“They were emancipated from certain aspects: from a church that played a lot of roles, that had control over health and education services,” she says. “But religious education continued until 2000. Rites of passage were very much in demand. The Catholic Church in Quebec was very dynamic after the 60s — there were bishops who were stars.”

Census data show that while Quebec pews have emptied, a strong attachment to the church remains. The 2011 National Household Survey found that 75 per cent of Quebecers declared a Catholic religious affiliation, and just 12 per cent declared no religious affiliation – the lowest of any region, according to University of Waterloo professor Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme. It is British Columbians who are the least religious Canadians, with 44 per cent declaring no religious affiliation.

Reginald Bibby, a sociology professor at the University of Lethbridge who has long tracked religious trends in Canada, says the identification of francophone Quebecers with Catholicism remains surprisingly high. For example, nearly 90 per cent of adults aged 35 and under who were raised in Catholic homes continue to identify as Catholic. He says many francophone Quebecers have an “à la carte” approach to religion, praying privately and believing they experience God, but rejecting church authority over issues relating to sex, sexual orientation and abortion.

Bibby says the historical importance of the Catholic Church to Quebec-born Catholics is inescapable. Catholicism “is virtually ‘in their bones’ and is not only part of their culture but also part of their personal identities,” he said in email correspondence. “The result is that they feel natural affinity with Catholic symbols, public and otherwise. Any efforts to obliterate those features of their culture is also an assault on identity and can be expected to be met with opposition, sometime vigorous.”

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Quebecu2019s proposed Values Charter in Montreal on Sept. 14, 2013. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Such a response was seen last February when, in the name of state religious neutrality, a Quebec City hospital took down a crucifix hanging by its elevators. The action drew a threat of violence, a scolding from government ministers and a petition signed by more than 13,000 people, egged on by the former politician behind the PQ’s failed Charter of Values. When the hospital returned the crucifix, it drew praise from Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, who declared the cross “heritage.”

For Lefebvre, religious symbols like the crucifix have taken on a disproportionate importance. “But we have no choice. It’s loaded with symbolic meaning, in connection with identity. So it is very risky now for political parties, for public personalities, to take a stand against these symbols,” she says. Spencer Boudreau, a retired McGill University education professor and a practicing Catholic, has trouble understanding how the crucifix, hung in the National Assembly in 1936, has survived more than 80 years of tumultuous history. But he sees ample evidence that Quebecers’ attachment to Catholicism persists — from the atheist politician and writer Pierre Bourgault requesting a funeral in Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica in 2003 to the Journal de Montréal’s publication last week of a calendar of cultural events to mark Advent. “It’s like your family,” Boudreau says. “There might be things you don’t like in the past, maybe you’ve got this crazy uncle, but that doesn’t mean you reject everything.”

Quebec efforts to grapple with secularism in the past decade have included the 2007-’08 Bouchard-Taylor commission, the 2013 Charter of Values seeking to ban conspicuous religious symbols from the public service and Bill 62, which is already the subject of a constitutional challenge. And still confusion reigns. Municipalities use zoning to restrict new places of worship while largely empty Catholic churches occupy prime estate. Residents of a small town outside Quebec City last summer blocked the opening of a Muslim cemetery on the grounds that a graveyard should be open to all, even though Catholic cemeteries can be just as restrictive.

With no sovereignty referendum on the horizon, secularism is likely to be a key “Quebec identity” issue as the province moves toward an election next October. CAQ leader François Legault, who is currently leading in the polls, has promised a “values test” for immigrants and he has identified the full-body burkini swimsuit as something that runs counter to Quebec values. His party also wants to prohibit people in positions of authority, including judges, police officers and schoolteachers, from wearing religious symbols.

The legislature in Quebec City on Nov. 16, 2017. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Félix Mathieu, a PhD student in Political Science at the Université du Québec à Montréal who co-authored a paper on the PQ Charter of Values, says the push to preserve symbols of Quebec’s Catholic past is led by conservative thinkers who argue that secularization went too far and the baby was thrown out with the bathwater. “They have a really flexible tolerance for religious symbols,” he says. “Those of the majority are accepted because they speak to our past; those of minorities — in particular Muslims and Sikhs — are identified as elements that sow division.”

Since the Liberals defeated the PQ in 2014 and the proposed Charter of Values died, the conservatives have been in retreat. But Mathieu says the next election could reverse that.

Quebecers are not alone in resisting minority religious symbols, but polls suggest they are the most opposed. An October poll by the Angus Reid Institute after Jagmeet Singh won the NDP leadership found that 47 per cent of Quebecers would not consider voting for a turban-wearing Sikh, compared with 32 per cent in Alberta, 23 per cent in British Columbia and 24 per cent in Ontario.

A nun outside Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Another Angus Reid poll later that month showed 68 per cent of Quebecers thought niqab-wearing women should be prohibited from visiting government offices, well above the national average of 49 per cent. The same poll found 55 per cent of Quebecers consider Islam to be damaging to Canada and 22 per cent said Judaism is damaging (compared with 11 per cent who said it is benefiting.) Catholicism, on the other hand, was seen as damaging to society by 10 per cent of Quebecers and benefiting by 36 per cent.

Angus Reid, founder of the institute, says the results show that Quebecers’ suspicion of minority religions cannot be explained simply by an embrace of secularism. “When you look at Quebec society, you find a level of intolerance for diversity which is significantly higher than the rest of the country,” he says. “It is seen in spades in the current Islamic debate that’s going on. It’s also seen in the fundamental question of the perception of Judaism.”

It is worth nothing that in 2011 just three percent of Quebecers identified as Muslim, one per cent as Jewish and a fraction of a per cent as Sikh. Lefebvre is optimistic that the more contact Quebecers have with adherents of minority religions, the more open they will become. “It’s familiarity that allows people to get over prejudices,” she says. And she questions whether other Canadians really view minority religions all that differently.

“Canada remains a country that is very inspired by Christianity from a certain point of view,” she says. “To me, the big difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada is that we are very vocal. We say what we are thinking loud and clear.”

via Ban the niqab, keep the cross? | National Post

‘We’re asking for change’: Emerging indigenous generation flexes muscle over cultural appropriation

Thoughtful exploration of cultural appropriation issues with respect to Indigenous peoples.

The graphic is particularly helpful in that it provides greater clarity to what can be considered cultural appropriation and what not, particularly the left and right columns. The middle column is where much of the current debate occurs:

George Nicholas, an archeology professor at Simon Fraser University and director of the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage research project, argues that borrowing between cultures has shaped societies around the world, and there is nothing wrong with that.


HandoutOjibwa broadcaster Jesse Wente: “We’re asking now for change, and we’re not going to stop asking.”

But just as trademarks, patents and copyrights protect intellectual property, he said, there should be protection for elements of indigenous heritage. The historical power imbalance between mainstream society and indigenous peoples has meant that little thought was given to the impact of appropriation, whether it is mass-produced gift-shop totem poles or high-end fashion copied from an Inuit parka.

“If I am taking something that is important to someone’s heritage, whether it’s a particular design or a particular set of stories or songs, my using those, my sharing those, my including those in some sort of commercial product, can result in cultural, or spiritual, or economic harm to the people whose heritage it is,” he said.

Kulchyski’s idea of “loving Indians to death” reflects the fact that often appropriation stems from good intentions. But he said it turns heritage into a commodity.

“By simply saying, ‘Oh we love your culture. We’ll have you dance during our Olympic ceremony. We’ll have you say a prayer before our meetings, but we haven’t actually substantively changed the fact that the economy is based on extraction from your lands, and we’re going to continue doing that,’ basically it becomes, at best, a hollow gesture and, at worst … your culture becomes something for sale.”

Keeshig-Tobias has watched the resurgence of the cultural appropriation debate with interest. The abuse she took for her stand in 1990 still stings.

“I was vilified, by just about everybody … big names in the Canadian writing community,” she said in an interview. “The complaint was that I was shackling the imagination.”

Her response then and today: “Your imagination comes right up to my nose, and if it goes any further, then I push back.”

She said it is discouraging to hear the “same old arguments” resurfacing but heartening to see a new generation pushing back.

“Hopefully they’ll listen now. Like I said, we’re in a new era,” she said. “So many things have happened between then and now, and there are so many more wonderfully articulate indigenous people.”

Source: ‘We’re asking for change’: Emerging indigenous generation flexes muscle over cultural appropriation | National Post

Denying Quebec woman day in court because she was wearing of hijab went against Canadian law principles: judge

Surprised that the judge, while making the correct ruling in the particular case, refused to make a general ruling that wearing a hijab (or kippa, or turban) is permissible in court. Hard to understand what hypothetical situation he was thinking of:

Seventeen months after a Quebec Court judge told her to remove her hijab in court, Rania El-Alloul has received partial vindication from the justice system, but no guarantee it will not happen again.

In a ruling released this week, Superior Court Justice Wilbrod Décarie writes, “The court has a lot of sympathy for (El-Alloul) and deeply regrets how she was treated.”

Judge Eliana Marengo’s February 2015 refusal to hear El-Alloul in the “secular space” of a courtroom unless she removed her Muslim head scarf flew in the face of a 2012 Supreme Court of Canada decision that a witness was entitled to testify in a face-covering niqab, Décarie found.

But he did not issue the judgment sought by El-Alloul — declaring that her rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been breached and affirming her right to appear in court wearing her hijab.

“Each case is a specific case that has to be evaluated in the context of the witness’s court appearance,” Décarie wrote. “It cannot be declared in advance, absolutely and out of context, that El-Alloul will have the right to wear the hijab during her future appearances before the Court of Quebec. Nobody can predict the future.”

What happens next, I don’t know. I hope no one ever feels what I felt in the past

Julius Grey, one of El-Alloul’s lawyers, called Décarie’s finding “wrong in law and very dangerous.” It opens the door to litigants trying to destabilize a witness by filing motions asking she remove her hijab.

“A person will feel insecure before the courts,” Grey said, adding he favours an appeal.

The lawyer said the issue is important as restrictions on religious dress become more common.

“It’s not a particularly Quebec matter. All over the West there is an unhealthy irritation, I would say, with religious garb, with religious practice, with other customs,” Grey said.

Source: Denying Quebec woman day in court because she was wearing of hijab went against Canadian law principles: judge | National Post

How a comedian, a rap group and a separatist critic are slaying a sacred cow: Quebec’s language rules

Graeme Hamilton on one of the latest twists in the Quebec culture debates:

In Mauvaise Langue, Cassivi mocks University of Ottawa language professor Jean Delisle for an article Delisle wrote complaining about the rampant English in Xavier Dolan’s film Mommy. In an interview, Delisle said he expects the acceptance of English preached by Cassivi will go the same way as the joual slang Quebec authors incorporated into their work in the 1970s.

“Nobody reads those novels any more,” he said. “So in a few years, the Dead Obies will really be dead. It’s a fad.”

The danger of English terms becoming fashionable among French-speakers is that over time the language becomes eroded, he said. “If it continues, if these anglicisms persist, the French words will be forgotten. That’s a step toward the hybridization of the language.”

Ruel has no time for doomsayers nostalgic for the days when Quebec chansonniers were a driving force behind the nationalist project. He sees the Quebec cultural establishment’s conservatism, which shuts Dead Obies out of grants and awards galas because they use too much English, as the biggest threat.

“Some kids are starting to get bored with Quebec, and that’s how you kill a culture,” he said. “If everything is safe and everything is whitewashed, then people will be bored.”

Instead of an attack on Quebec culture, why not view Dead Obies as saviours? “You can see the glass half full or half empty,” Ruel said.

“Is it English culture that is invading ours? Or is it French Quebecers who are weaving French into rap culture, and suddenly you have French rap that gets played in bars alongside Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West because it has that same feel and authenticity?”

Source: How a comedian, a rap group and a separatist critic are slaying a sacred cow: Quebec’s language rules | National Post

Quebec infringed on religious freedom by forcing Catholic school to teach secular course: Supreme Court

On the recent Supreme Court ruling:

Loyola told the Supreme Court it wasn’t challenging the constitutionality of any legislation. But it was invoking a regulatory provision that allows private schools to teach their own version of a course where their program is equivalent, the school said in its factum. However, Quebec’s Education Department doesn’t consider Loyola’s substitute course an equivalent one. One reason is that the approach recommended by the ERC course is non-denominational, while Loyola’s version aims to transmit the Catholic faith, the Quebec government argues.

Loyola has said it would teach all the same content at the ERC course Loyola’s former principal Paul Donovan told the Montreal Gazette on Wednesday.

“We just didn’t want to have to suppress or hold back the Catholic nature of the school,” Donovan said.

Private religious schools in Quebec can teach their own faiths, but separately from the ERC course.

It’s the second time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the course taught in Quebec’s schools since the 2008-2009 school year. A Drummondville couple, who are Catholics, had argued that refusing to exempt their sons from the compulsory course violated their freedom of conscience and religion. But in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court dismissed their appeal in 2012. The couple hadn’t proved that the ERC course interfered with their ability to pass their own faith onto their children, the decision said.

Quebec infringed on religious freedom by forcing Catholic school to teach secular course: Supreme Court.

Graeme Hamilton’s commentary on the fears of religious fundamentalism in Quebec:

Listening to politicians, it can feel as if Quebec is under assault from religious fundamentalists. The opposition Parti Québécois wants an observer to report annually to the National Assembly on “manifestations of religious fundamentalism.” The Liberal government has a working group to combat radicalism. The Coalition Avenir Québec proposes banning preaching that runs counter to Quebec values.

But those same legislators have no quarrel with a secular fundamentalism that has taken root in the province at the expense of religious rights. On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada sent a message to Quebec that its state-sanctioned secularism can go too far.

In a ruling affirming the right of Montreal’s Loyola High School, a private Catholic boys school, to teach its own version of a provincially mandated course on ethics and religion, the court offered a timely reminder to politicians.

“The pursuit of secular values means respecting the right to hold and manifest different religious beliefs,” Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the majority. “A secular state respects religious differences, it does not seek to extinguish them.”

The pursuit of secular values means respecting the right to hold and manifest different religious beliefs

The ruling specifically applies to a small number of private religious schools in Quebec, but it resonates more widely at a time when governments contend with questions involving religious rights. Recently in Quebec, mosques have run up against obstacles over fears of religious extremism, and a Muslim woman was told she could not appear before a Quebec Court wearing her hijab. The federal government has taken a stand against the face-covering niqab, saying women cannot wear the garments during citizenship ceremonies.

Interference with a religious group’s beliefs or practices is justified only if they “conflict with or harm overriding public interests,” Justice Abella wrote.

… In a partially concurring opinion that argued for less restriction on Loyola, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Michael Moldaver wrote that it is enough for Loyola teachers to treat other religious viewpoints with respect; it does not have to treat them as equally legitimate.

“Indeed, presenting fundamentally incompatible religious doctrines as equally legitimate and equally credible could imply that both are equally false,” they wrote. “Surely this cannot be a perspective that a religious school can be compelled to adopt.”

John Zucchi, whose son was a student at Loyola when the ERC program was introduced and who was a plaintiff in the initial court case, said Thursday’s ruling provides crucial guidance. “This is helping the country to come to what I would call a sane form of secularism,” he said. “We don’t need to shut down one voice in the name of diversity and pluralism, but rather diversity and pluralism mean that all perspectives can be heard and be out in the public square.”

Graeme Hamilton: A secular fundamentalism has taken root in Quebec

All mosques should face ‘Quebec values’ investigation before being allowed to open: CAQ leader

Sigh …

But why stop there? What about churches? Synagogues? Gurdwaras? Is Legault really sure that they also agree or disagree with “Quebec values” as he would define them?

The leader of Coalition Avenir Québec said Tuesday all mosques should be investigated prior to being allowed to open in the province.

François Legault, head of the third-most popular party in Quebec’s legislature, said a public body should be created to investigate people who potentially disagree with so-called Quebec values.

Legault said the body would be able to find out if “applicants [for mosques] have consistently denigrated Quebec values.”

He said municipal authorities could use information collected by investigators in order to deny permits to people wanting to open mosques in the province.

Legault’s comments were in reaction to news that a Quebec town north of Montreal bowed to citizen pressure and denied a zoning change that would have allowed people to build a mosque.

All mosques should face ‘Quebec values’ investigation before being allowed to open: CAQ leader

Graeme Hamilton’s well-put commentary:

Mr. Couillard has criticized Mr. Legault’s proposal to clamp down on speech that runs counter to Quebec values. In the National Assembly Wednesday, Mr. Couillard said Mr. Legault’s plan would affect not just mosques but churches and synagogues. “There exists in Quebec a church that does not allow women to be celebrants,” he said. “There exists in Quebec another church that says women and men must be separated in religious buildings.” He said the CAQ “really likes to talk about Muslims, but religion is a much more complex phenomenon than that.”

But Mr. Couillard has stopped short of condemning Shawinigan’s actions. He simply expressed the hope that a dialogue between municipal officials and Muslim leaders will lead to a solution. Philippe Bégin Garti, a Shawinigan lawyer involved in the mosque project, declined comment Wednesday, saying his group is in talks with the city and seeking “an amicable solution.”

Mr. Legault accused the Premier of giving priority to free speech over other values and said the government’s inaction was sowing fear in the population.

If there is a segment of the population with reason to fear, it is the Muslims who are being told the mere act of worshipping is cause for suspicion. Instead of denouncing the insults thrown at Shawinigan Muslims last week, Mr. Legault sought to score political points by feeding the prejudice.

Shawinigan is a short drive from little Hérouxville. That is where the 2007 adoption of a “code of life” purporting to tell newcomers what’s what helped trigger a full-blown crisis in Quebec, as people objected to the “accommodation” of religious minorities. Then as now, strong political leadership was sorely lacking.

Graeme Hamilton: Quebec politicians playing to ‘irrational fears’ about Islamic extremism

Graeme Hamilton: Banning centre run by controversial Montreal Imam problematic in a democratic society


Aurélie Campana, a political science professor at Université Laval and holder of the Canada Research Chair on Conflicts and Terrorism, said countries around the world are seeking the proper balance between respecting freedoms and thwarting radicalization.

“We are all walking a tightrope, whether in Quebec in Canada or in other countries confronted by these problems,” she said. “I don’t think anyone has found a miracle solution yet.”

But turning the danger of radicalism into an emotional political issue is a recipe for increased social tensions, she said.

“In Canada, through multiculturalism, there is a relative social peace that is not found in other countries — in France, for example,” she said. “The risk is that this law indirectly calls into question the existing social balance, and that the Muslim community is stigmatized.”

Mr. Bouazzi said he hears regularly of young Montrealers leaving to join ISIS but argues that, in the short-term, the best counterweight is to appeal to Muslim families. “They do co-operate,” he said, citing the recent example of a father who called in police after his son robbed a variety store to finance a trip to join the jihad.

He said a tough law that restricts freedoms is counterproductive. “We are really in front of a dilemma: Because we want to fight terrorism that does not agree with democracy, we’re actually destroying our democracy,” he said. “It’s very important to stay strong in these situations, because we don’t want them to win.”

Graeme Hamilton: Banning centre run by controversial Montreal Imam problematic in a democratic society

Graeme Hamilton: The one gesture Philippe Couillard used to slam the door on Marois’ Parti Québécois

Not bad messaging:

But it was a subtler gesture by Mr. Couillard that truly slammed the door on Pauline Marois’ 19 months in power. Kathleen Weil, it was announced, would be “Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion.”

After the division wrought by the PQ’s charter of Quebec values, which sought to ban minorities who wear religious symbols from public-sector employment, the immigration department’s new name was clearly intended to send a message: The days of homogeneity and exclusion are over.

Addressing Ms. Weil in his speech after the 26-member cabinet was sworn in in the National Assembly’s Salon Rouge, Mr. Couillard said immigration is essential to Quebec’s future, and diversity is an asset.

“To welcome is to grow and to open oneself. In Quebec we are going to grow together,” he said.

“You will have the difficult but essential task of helping to heal the wounds of recent months by participating in the construction of an open, inclusive society proudly sharing an identity based on our language and our shared values.”

We will see how this is captured in the proposed Charte de laicité.

Graeme Hamilton: The one gesture Philippe Couillard used to slam the door on Marois’ Parti Québécois | National Post.

Martin Patriquin in Maclean’s makes the same point:

Kathleen Weil will be minister of “immigration, diversity and inclusion.” The name itself is an apparent middle finger to the former PQ government, which pushed a so-called Quebec values charter that sought to remove religious accoutrements from the heads and bodies of Quebec’s public-sector employees. Weil, an early Couillard supporter, and newly ensconced justice minister Stephanie Vallée will likely work together to bring about legislation on the “reasonable accommodations” file—and deflate a major PQ electoral cudgel in the process.

A government of low expectations for Philippe Couillard

La Presse‘s take:

Lors d’un point de presse, jeudi matin, en marge du premier caucus depuis la prestation de serment des libéraux, elle a dit juger que le gouvernement, dans une démarche d’inclusion, devra déployer des «gestes concrets» pour se rapprocher de ces communautés qui auraient été victimes «d’intimidation» en raison de la charte péquiste.

«Il y a des blessures», selon elle.

Le titre de Mme Weil, qui exerçait la même fonction dans le gouvernement Charest, a été modifié pour devenir «ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion».

Elle dit souhaiter que la société québécoise «s’ouvre» davantage aux nouveaux arrivants. «L’inclusion, ça va au-delà» de l’intégration, qu’elle décrit comme une «dimension nouvelle».

«Il faut revisiter toutes ces questions», selon Mme Weil, qui juge le moment venu de «rebâtir des ponts», loin du message «d’exclusion» prôné par le gouvernement précédent.

Laïcité: Québec juge nécessaire de rebâtir les ponts

Graeme Hamilton: Marois may be the one ‘reintegrating in another job’ after the election

Cleverly written and the irony of Marois’ juxtaposed photo op and messaging:

If it had been held a day earlier, Parti Québécois Premier Pauline Marois’ visit Wednesday to a centre helping immigrant women find work would have made more sense: “We are a welcoming nation. We want more immigrants from North Africa. We need to combat discrimination in hiring … April Fools!”

But Ms. Marois, whose charter of Quebec values would prohibit women wearing the hijab from working in the public sector, kept a straight face as she praised her government’s openness one minute, then said a daycare worker who refused to remove her hijab would lose her job the next.

“At that point they will have to make a choice, that’s for sure,” she told reporters, noting that the centre she was visiting, the Collectif des femmes immigrantes du Québec, is skilled at helping immigrants find jobs. “There are people who we can help to reintegrate in another job.”

Graeme Hamilton: Marois may be the one ‘reintegrating in another job’ after the election | National Post.

Haroon Siddiqui is equally critical on the use of minorities to advance the Charter message:

Anti-Semites usually insist they have Jewish friends. The late Pim Fortuyn, the gay right-wing Dutch politician, claimed he had several Moroccan boyfriends. The PQ parades its female Jewish and Muslim candidates — Evelyne Abitbol, of Moroccan Jewish ancestry, and Yasmina Chouakri, Leila Mahiout and Djemila Benhabib, all of Algerian Muslim descent. The PQ also backs Fatima Houda-Pepin, of Moroccan Muslim ancestry, who quit the Liberal party because of her support of the charter and is running as an independent. They are all entitled to their views and political choices. But the ironies of their high-profile candidacies are inescapable.
They are peddling their religious identities to champion the removal of religious identities from the state. They are feminists who want to fire vulnerable women from work. They promote post-religious modernism by importing the intra-religious divisions of their homelands rather than adhering to the Canadian rule of law that guarantees equality for people of all faiths or no faith.

Parti Québécois apes demagoguery of European right: Siddiqui

In the last few days of the election, communities are mobilizing their vote to defeat the Charter. While the focus of this article is with respect to the Jewish community in Quebec, expect that other community organizations are also active:

« Nous n’avons pas été épargnés par les débats publics décevants entourant la controversée charte des valeurs québécoises proposée par le gouvernement que dirige le Parti québécois », indique un courriel interne de la Fédération CJA, l’organisation qui représente les communautés juives de Montréal, obtenu par Le Devoir.

« Nous encourageons les membres de la communauté à faire tout leur possible, le jour des élections, pour aller voter pour le parti de leur choix. Même dans les circonscriptions qui semblent gagnées d’avance, les bulletins ont tous leur importance, car le financement des partis politiques est calculé au prorata du nombre de votes reçus à l’élection précédente. […] En ces jours qui précèdent l’élection, jouez un rôle actif dans notre démocratie et encouragez ceux qui vous entourent à s’exprimer », ajoute le message signé par Susan Laxer, présidente, et Deborah Corber, chef de la direction de la Fédération CJA.

Charte: les opposants sur un pied d’alerte | Le Devoir.