Elizabeth May says there’s ‘no room’ for racism in Green Party after NDP defector’s comments

Let’s not kid ourselves by denying that racist attitudes don’t exist and that the comments by Richardson were more in that line than himself endorsing those views.

The question is more whether the “undertone” is more on the discomfort side or more xenophobic and racist.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May issued a statement Wednesday saying “there is no room for any kind of racism” in her party after a recent convert made comments about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen former New Brunswick NDP candidates threw their support behind the provincial and federal Greens. One of the defectors — Jonathan Richardson, the former federal NDP executive member for Atlantic Canada — said racism was one of the reasons for the party’s lack of success in finding candidates with an election call imminent.

He said he travelled around the province to meet NDP members and found there’s “a bit of racism undertone,” particularly in the northern part of the province.

“From when I was up in the [Acadian] peninsula, I would say that a lot of that region that most people would be a bit worried about somebody who wasn’t, you know, wasn’t Caucasian, and that’s going to take some time to show people that, you know, Canadians come in all cultures and diversities,” he said. “But for right now I think that that racism still exists.”

Singh is a practising Sikh and wears a turban.

Singh said all national party leaders should be celebrating Canadian diversity and that May needs to explain why she has let the former New Democrats into her party.

“She’s taking in candidates that have kind of openly expressed their concern around someone looking differently and that being a challenge,” Singh said in Toronto on Wednesday evening. “If she is accepting people that are suggesting things that are not accepting of people’s diversity, then the Green Party has a lot to answer for.”

“I think our political leaders should embrace the diversity of our country and should be willing to say you can look like whatever you are as long as you share the values and beliefs that are going to make peoples’ lives better.”

NDP MP Charlie Angus tweeted that “the fact that some N.B. NDP jumped ship because they wouldn’t run under a progressive leader who comes from another religion is sickening.”

Karl Belanger, a former national director of the NDP, also weighed in, tweeting that it’s “not a good look, New Greens.”

May issued a statement Wednesday saying Richardson’s comments “were taken out of context and have led to accusations of racism against the party.”

“One of the core values of Greens around the world is respect for diversity and human rights,” she said.

“There is absolutely no room for any form of discrimination in the Green Party. We have zero tolerance for sexism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia or hate speech of any kind. Canada’s strength lies in its diversity.”

New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon said he hasn’t had a chance to speak to Richardson since he made the comments, but he contends they’ve been “overblown” and “exploited” by people trying to “blunt the impact” of 14 NDP candidates joining the Greens all at once.

“What I heard him say basically was he ran into some people who had ignorant attitudes and held prejudices against people of colour or people of different religions,” he said.

“It’s not a news flash racism and prejudice exists in Canada, and it’s abhorrent and we need to work to stand up to it and stamp it out.”

Coon said he travels the province regularly and, in his experience, “most” New Brunswickers are “very accepting.”

The NDP hasn’t held a seat in the New Brunswick legislature since 2005. Its last MP in the province was Acadie-Bathurst’s Yvon Godin, who retired in 2015.

Richardson told CBC News Tuesday there are other factors behind NDP’s diminished standing in New Brunswick — including the fact that Singh hasn’t set foot in the province since winning the leadership in 2017, the election planning committee’s focus on “urban areas that are diverse,” and a lack of staffing.

Coon said he doesn’t believe racism has played a role in the NDP’s troubles in the province. He contends the NDP has been struggling in New Brunswick since Elizabeth Weir stepped down as provincial party leader in the mid-2000s.

“So it’s been a long process where they’ve found significant challenges in resonating with the people of our province. And so I think that it’s not just one issue,” he said.

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said he “couldn’t disagree more” with Richardson’s comments, which he said imply that New Brunswickers are “inherently racist.”

“The New Brunswick I know welcomes and embraces people of all backgrounds,” he said in a statement.

“These comments are wrong, embarrassing for the province and should be embarrassing for Green Party Leader David Coon.”

Coon, whose Green Party is enjoying a boom in support, securing three seats in the 2018 provincial election, said Richardson will have to take responsibility for his words. “It’s his point of view and he’s the one who’s going to have to defend that.”

Late Wednesday, Richardson posted the text of his speech on Facebook, “for those out there who are wondering and asking questions.”

Richardson said he will not be answering questions from the general public or media, but would be “happy to have a conversation” with any of his friends.

Source: Elizabeth May says there’s ‘no room’ for racism in Green Party after NDP defector’s comments

Douglas Todd: Why the Greens don’t attract ‘ethnic’ voters

Interesting. There may be differences between first and subsequent generations:

Why do Green party candidates only win seats in ridings where the vast majority of voters are white?

Federal and B.C. Green candidates have won election in only one concentrated region of Canada, on Vancouver Island and the adjacent Southern Gulf Islands, in ridings that have scant visible minorities compared to most of the country’s cities.

In the Southern Gulf Islands — the heart of the region that has handed victories to the lone federal Green MP, leader Elizabeth May, and to B.C. MLA Adam Olsen — only two per cent of residents belong to a minority ethnic group. That compares to 51 per cent of people in Metro Vancouver, where the Greens struggle.

Political observers believe the Greens’ poor showing among immigrants, ethnic Chinese and South Asian voters, and others, is the result of a common perception the party puts environmental protection before economic prosperity. The Greens have also had fewer resources to woo ethnic voters.

“The first generation of immigrants often leave their homelands for economic reasons,” says Shinder Purewal, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist. “They’re willing to work in any sector that provides jobs. Early Sikh immigrants, for instance, worked in the lumber industry. Environmentalists calling for preservation of trees were often seen as a threat to their livelihood.”

Purewal routinely hears Indo-Canadians remark on how “the Greens would destroy the economy. Not only do they think this would mean lower living standards, it would lead to the state not being able to provide social programs. … Immigrants, who come from countries with almost no social programs, appreciate Canada’s health care and public education, along with workers’ compensation, employment insurance and old age pensions.”

Regardless of which factors are strongest, it’s clear that visible minorities in Canada, many of whom are immigrants, are far less inclined to vote Green than are whites. Along with Green candidates drastically under-performing in ridings in which ethnic groups predominate, polls have revealed the party’s demographic affliction.

A Mainstreet Research poll conducted last year found 21 per cent of Caucasian British Columbians were ready to vote for the Greens. But support for the Greens dropped to eight per cent among ethnic Chinese in B.C., seven per cent among South Asians, 10 per cent among Filipinos and five per cent among Koreans.

The so-called ethnic vote is a major factor in B.C. elections, since at least one in five provincial ridings contains fewer white people than the combined totals of ethnic Chinese, South Asians, Koreans, Filipinos, Koreans, Persians and Pakistanis.

Most people of Chinese origin in B.C. “are still under the impression that economic development and environmental protection are incompatible, or even mutually exclusive,” says Fenella Sung, former radio host of a Chinese-language current affairs program in B.C.

The more than 470,000 ethnic Chinese people in Metro Vancouver, who predominate in ridings in Richmond where the Greens performed badly in last year’s B.C. election, tend to believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Greens are a single-issue party, Sung said.

“Since prosperity is their main priority, they think the environment can take a back seat,” Sung said. Chinese-Canadians generally believe protecting nature is something to be addressed only “after economic growth is sustained and job creation is guaranteed.”

Sonia Furstenau, the B.C. Greens’ deputy leader, said, “We’re really committed to improving the diversity of our candidates. It’s a real priority.”

The party is stepping up its message to ethnic minorities and others that protecting the environment does not threaten personal livelihoods, but will help create “more stable, long-term jobs than we have now,” said Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, where nine of 10 report English as their mother tongue, the fourth highest proportion of B.C.’s 87 ridings. The Greens, she said, also want to strengthen public education and the high-tech sector.

Stefan Jonnson, communications director for the three-seat B.C. Greens, which is supporting the NDP government, said up until recently most candidates in the small party have lacked finances to publish Chinese- or Punjabi-language campaign material or to appear at ethnic events. But that, he said, has been rapidly changing.

Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said the Greens “have to become a multicultural party if they’re going to break out of Vancouver Island. It’s not a party that speaks to immigrants.”

The tip of Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands are Green strongholds in part, Telford said, because they’re home to many Caucasians who have moved there from others parts of the province and country “to retire and enjoy the beauty of the place, the peace and outdoors.”

After travelling to the Punjab in India, the homeland of hundreds of thousands of B.C. residents, Telford was strengthened in his perception that “Punjabis are a very political people.” While Sikh and Hindu nationalist parties are notable in the Punjab, he said, there are few signs of an environmental movement.

Since roughly a quarter of the students in Telford’s classrooms on the Abbotsford campus are South Asian, he has learned many are keen about economics, immigration, racism and social programs.

But hope for the Greens may lie in such students, he said. “The ones born and raised here tend to skew to the left and to have the same concerns as other young Canadians. Some are interested in the Greens. That’s not so much the case for the older generations.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Why the Greens don’t attract ‘ethnic’ voters

Political Parties Respond to OCASI Questions for General Election 2015

OCASI [Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants] surveyed the major parties regarding immigration-related issues. The following excerpts their responses to the question below on citizenship. The Conservative Party did not submit a response given that it has largely implemented its policies:

“3. Citizenship

Only 26 per cent of permanent residents who settled in Canada in 2008 acquired Canadian citizenship, compared with 44 per cent for immigrant who arrived in 2007 and 79 percent for those who arrived in 2000. These are the findings of research on citizenship acquisition released earlier this year. Access to citizenship has become more restricted, and naturalized citizens and those with dual citizenship are treated differently under the law.

Question: How will you ensure access to citizenship and exercise of citizenship is equitable?”

NDP:  Under Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, it has become harder and harder for immigrants to come to Canada and succeed. They’ve created huge backlogs, increased fees, politicized the citizenship test, made children and seniors pass language tests, and created new categories of citizenship rights. An NDP government will work with stakeholders to restore fairness and transparency to our citizenship and immigration system and to undo harmful Conservative changes. We will repeal Conservative legislation that treats naturalized and dual citizens differently from other citizens. We will review the citizenship test. And we will remove the requirement for 14-17 year olds and 55-64 year olds to pass a language test in order to receive citizenship.

Liberal:

Citizenship application wait times have ballooned during Mr. Harper’s time in office. Not content to quadruple fees and double processing times, the Conservatives have unnecessarily erected new barriers for aspiring citizens. We are witnessing ever more difficult language testing imposed on older potential Canadians, and the scrapping of the credit for time spent in Canada, which was previously extended to international students. In all of these areas, a combination of Conservative cynicism and budget cutbacks have abandoned those people who find themselves in the immigration system.

Over and over during the Harper decade we have heard how Canadians cannot get access to the services they need in a timely manner. A Liberal government will create new performance standards for services offered by the federal government, including streamlining applications, reducing wait times, and money- back guarantees. Performance will be independently assessed and publicly reported, including immigration processing. After years of cuts, all of these services take too long and do not provide the service that Canadians deserve.

Liberals believe that leading this country should mean bringing Canadians together, not dividing them against one another. We will repeal the parts of Bill C-24 that introduce unnecessary barriers and hardships for people to become Canadians. With C-24, the Conservative government has created a second class of citizen—dual nationals whose Canadian citizenship can revoked by the government without due process. Liberals believe in a Canada that is united and strong not in spite of its differences, but precisely because of them. These values have been abandoned under Stephen Harper, who wants us to believe that some of us are less Canadian than others.

Liberals believe that citizenship is a fundamental building block of Canada. No elected official should have the exclusive power to grant or revoke this most basic status. This bill devalues Canadians citizenship and undermines Canada’s economic well-being by making it harder to attract international talent and expertise to Canada.

Green:

The research clearly demonstrates that access to citizenship is rapidly becoming an unrealizable pursuit for many immigrants to Canada. Our immigration and refugee protection system is not prepared for 21st­century realities or challenges. A system with more than 50 entry streams that by 2010 had produced a backlog of one million applications ­ many of which languished in the queue for up to five or six years ­ is a dysfunctional nightmare at best. It is an embarrassment to a country like Canada that increasingly depends on interconnectedness with the rest of the world.

Immigration is first and foremost about citizenship. The Green Party is the only federal party to have concluded that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is irredeemably flawed and must be scrapped. Weak mechanisms for assessing labour shortages have allowed the TFWP to undermine wage and labour standards. At the same time, the program exploits foreign workers.

Any reforms to Canada’s immigration system must strengthen our social fabric and be consistent with our fundamental values of the rule of law, equality, and fairness. The Green Party will initiate a comprehensive overhaul of Canada’s immigration and refugee protection system. Our reforms will ensure an efficient and predictable path to citizenship for all immigrants and their families. In addition to the policies discussed in depth here, we will establish pathways to citizenship for temporary foreign workers and the families of new Canadians. Greens will work with municipalities and provinces to improve the integration of new Canadians. We will also repeal Bill C­24 which allows the minister of citizenship to revoke citizenship. Citizenship is a category that cannot have classes.

New Democratic Party response to OCASI – Election 2015 [PDF]

Liberal Party response to OCASI – Election 2015 [PDF]

Green Party response to OCASI – Election 2015 [PDF]