Kay: Exploiting a Woman’s Deadly Fall to Smear Toronto’s Police

An interesting account of police training, the social work side of policing,  and an equally important discussion of the rush to apply a simple race lens rather than a more comprehensive look at the evidence and issues involved.

While it is necessary and legitimate to question police practices, both systemic and particular, and while any death related to policing is a human tragedy, one should neither assume that all incidents involving the police are racist or that none of them are:

A few years ago, when I did ride-alongs with Toronto-area police officers, I saw how much of their job involves dealing with mental-health and addiction issues. Most of the incidents these officers responded to were rooted in a troubled household, and the protagonists typically were well-known to the arriving officers: an autistic adult son whose outbursts overwhelmed aging parents, a wife fearful of an alcoholic husband, an agitated elderly man who’d become convinced his neighbours were spying on him through his devices. Most of these incidents required therapists as much as (or more than) police officers. But since the threat of violence hovered over all of them, at least in theory, it was the police who got the call. As I wrote at the time, the officers mostly played the role of social workers with a badge.

The stereotype of police as violent, poorly trained hotheads is sometimes borne out on YouTube, which now functions as a highlight reel for every bad apple wearing a uniform. But the reality—at least in Canada, where I live—is that new officers are typically post-secondary graduates who spend a lot of their time in training sessions. In 2016, I sat in on one such session at a police headquarters facility west of Toronto, where officers attend seminars conducted by experts from within the community, and then go through elaborate small-group role-playing scenarios led by a trained corps of actors who specialize in mimicking various crisis states. As I reported in a magazine article, the facility features a mock-up house with different rooms, so officers can perform their exercises in realistic domestic environments. When each role-playing scenario was completed, the officers were critiqued and interviewed in front of the entire group. Then the actor herself would give her impressions about how the officers’ behaviour made her feel.

I thought about all this following the real-life case of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the 29-year-old black woman who fell to her death from a Toronto apartment balcony in May while seeking to evade police officers. During one role-playing session I observed four years ago, an actor seeking to evade officers under similar circumstances ran into a bathroom and locked the door. For five minutes, the officers awkwardly tried to coax her out, meeting with eventual success. In the analysis segment that followed, the supervising officer explained that it once was common practice for officers in such situations to simply bash open the door. But this kind of technique fell out of fashion years ago, since it led to unnecessary trauma and risk (for the officers as much as the bathroom occupant).

Some of the other acted exercises I observed included a paranoid schizophrenic crouching under a kitchen table, babbling fearfully as officers tried to soothe him, and a homeless woman who threatened to hurt herself with a knife if officers approached. While holding them at bay from her perch on a living-room sofa, the actress recited a backstory: She had nothing to live for because child services had taken away her kid, her only reason for hope. When she finally put away the knife, the officers walked forward to escort her away—at which point the supervisor ended the exercise and admonished them: “Yes, she put away that knife,” he said. “But how do you know that’s the only weapon she’s got? When you focus on the object, you forget about the person.”

There was also a memorable exercise involving a male actor who was threatening to jump from a window—which presents another grim point of analogy to the Korchinski-Paquet case. It is a mark of this man’s acting skill that, years after I watched his morbid star turn, I still remember the details of his narrative: He was a musician, suffering from depression, who was stuck pursuing a dead-end part-time position with a local orchestra.

Critically, he wasn’t the only actor who was part of this particular exercise. An older woman played the role of his mother, who was screaming non-stop as the officers arrived. Two pairs of officers did the exercise in succession, and their approaches were very different. The first pair—two men who’d recently joined the force—both approached the man and took turns imploring him to step down from the window. But they could barely make themselves heard over the screaming of the actor playing the mother role. Then came the second pair of officers, middle-aged women who’d apparently worked together on the beat. One of the women spoke to the man, while the other officer gently guided the mother off into another room. This was correct practice, the instructor said: You can’t make any progress if you’re just going to become bystanders to an ongoing drama. In many cases, you need to separate the family members before you can help them.

It’s the same principle I saw (and wrote about) when I observed two veteran officers show up at the (very real) home of a young couple who’d been fighting. The man, plainly troubled in all sorts of ways, had punched a hole in the wall, and the woman was frightened. One of the first things that happened upon our arrival was that the female officer—Constable Jaime Peach, who still serves on the Peel Police—took the man downstairs and interviewed him in the lobby. The other officer, Winston Fullinfaw (who was promoted to Staff Sergeant around the time I rode with him), interviewed the woman and learned about her complicated family situation. Had there been more adults in the household, it’s possible that more officers would have been dispatched: When it comes to complicated domestic disputes, sometimes there is no substitute for manpower. A beleaguered lone officer sometimes may become more prone to violence, since he is more likely to lose control of a situation and feel threatened.

This is something we should think about amid claims that society would be more peaceful if we simply got rid of the police, or starved it of funding. We should also think about how such police forces would respond to funding cuts. Training programs would be one of the first things to face the chopping block. Would that make anyone safer?

On May 27, the last day of Korchinski-Paquet’s life, a half-dozen Toronto Police Service officers and an EMS worker responded to a call from her family members, who’d told a 911 operator that there was a fight in their 24th-storey apartment. Because Ontario’s independent Special Investigations Unit (SIU) now has released its report on Korchinski-Paquet’s death, based on camera footage and numerous interviews, we know what happened next. As the Toronto Sun accurately reportedback in early June, Korchinski-Paquet asked to take a bathroom break before accompanying the officers downtown for mental-health treatment. She then barricaded a door, went onto her balcony, and slipped while trying to step onto another balcony, falling 24 floors to her death. Initial reports from family—which suggested that officers had murdered the woman by deliberately pushing her off the balcony—were completely false.

To state the obvious, the death of Korchinski-Paquet is a tragedy. And it would have compounded the tragedy to learn that her death was a racist act of homicide. One might therefore imagine that it would provide Torontonians with at least some meager solace to learn that their police force had acquitted itself without fault, and in a way that reflected the progressive, non-violent methods that are taught in training programs. But in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the riots that followed, it has become a common claim among progressive media and politicians that Canada is every bit as racist as the United States. And in the absence of actual recent Canadian scenes of horror on par with the killing of Floyd, the case of Korchinski-Paquet has been cited as a substitute.

The Toronto Star, which never misses a chance to hustle racism claims to its readers, has run features with titles such as “Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s death and anti-Black violence in policing,” informing us “how systemic racism and anti-Black violence continues to play a huge role in Canada.” In a Star op-ed published in early June, opinion writer Noa Mendelsohn Aviv explicitly rejected the proposition that “in order to comment on Regis’s death, we must wait for the result of the Special Investigation Unit’s investigation because we do not yet have the facts and need to ascertain the truth.” (Even when the SIU report came out, the Star could not bear to abandon its anti-police posture, and so now is impugning the credibility of the SIU.) A Maclean’s writer described Korchinski-Paquet’s death as evidence that “Black lives” are “expendable.” The SIU investigation shows nothing of the kind, even if I doubt we will see any retractions.

Perhaps the most appalling response—because it comes from someone who purports to be seeking the job of Canadian prime minister—was from Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s progressive New Democratic Party (NDP). On August 26, after the SIU released its report, Singh blithely claimed that Regis Korchinski-Paquet “died because of police intervention. She needed help and her life was taken instead. The SIU’s decision brings no justice to the family and it won’t prevent this from happening again.” Singh offered no theory as to why the SIU report was wrong, but simply delivered a flat-out blood libel against the officers who’d tried to help Korchinski-Paquet on May 27 (and who are likely traumatized by what happened, as any normal person would be). To repeat: This isn’t some college activist or aggrieved family member. It is the leader of a national Canadian political party who holds the balance of power in Canada’s minority Parliament.

Singh is in some ways a special case, because his NDP, having strayed so far from the unionized blue-collar base on which it was founded, now has been reduced to little more than a social-media outpost catering to college hashtaggers. For weeks, in 2017, he spouted conspiracist nonsense about the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history. More recently, he casually denounced the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a gang of bigots, and then was ejected from Parliament when he accused a fellow Parliamentarian of being racist because he didn’t go along with Singh’s slur. But though comprising an extreme example, Singh is hardly alone. Indeed, the presumption that all police are, by their nature, contaminated by racist malignancy, has become a casually recited starting point in debates about crime and policing.

In regard to the actual goal of reforming police methods—which is the thing that Singh and everyone else pretends to care about—it’s worth taking stock of the damage wrought by this irresponsible approach. About one Torontonian dies every year during encounters with police, this in a city of three-million people. That’s about one tenth the average annual tally for Minneapolis, a city that is one seventh the size of Toronto. One might think that a 70-fold difference in per-capita police-involved deaths might be seen as statistically significant, and be reasonably attributed to the massive investments in training and professionalism that I have personally witnessed in Canadian constabularies. If best practices in Toronto spread to American cities, lives truly could be saved. But instead, progressives such as Singh are far more interested in polluting Twitter with lazy lies and protest applause lines that erase any distinction between policing methods.

Information about the death of Korchinski-Paquet may be found on the web site of Ontario’s SIU. And if there are lessons to be gleaned about how to better respond to potentially violent family crises, our leaders should implement them. But so far, police critics seem far more interested in exploiting this poor woman’s death to advance their own ideological bona fides and defame innocent police officers than with preventing future tragedies.

Source: Exploiting a Woman’s Deadly Fall to Smear Toronto’s Police

Mulcair: Jagmeet Singh calls MP ‘racist’, but has he forgotten about Bill 21?

Valid question:

In 2016, when I first prepared a House of Commons motion condemning islamophobia, we couldn’t get it past a handful of Conservatives who’d denied unanimous consent. We worked hard for all-party agreement, drew a big chalk circle around the stain of Conservative opposition and were able to present the motion again. This time it was accepted and passed unanimously.

Those events in Parliament immediately came to mind when Jagmeet Singh chose to call Bloc House Leader Alain Thérrien a racist. Thérrien had communicated the Bloc’s refusal of unanimous consent for the introduction of Singh’s motion, which called for the recognition of systemic racism within the RCMP. Singh confirmed that he had indeed called Thérrien a racist, but refused to withdraw the word when asked to do so by the Speaker. The Speaker, Anthony Rota, proceeded to expel Singh for refusing to respect his decision.

In subsequent interviews, Singh affirmed that Thérrien had to be a racist because of the subject matter. He also said that he would not apologize for the personal insult, explaining that doing so would be like apologizing for being against systemic racism. As of Jun. 30, Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet was threatening a robust reaction when the House returns July 8, if Rota maintains the decision of expelling Singh for just one day. Blanchet went so far as to call Singh’s reaction “orchestrated.”

Rota has had to defend his credentials in his home riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming, after a local group called on the MP to demonstrate “stronger anti-racism leadership”. There is now little hope that the grave and urgent issue of systemic racism in the RCMP will ever be the object of the unanimous denunciation of the House of Commons.

In the case of that vote against Islamophobia, it had also been no small feat to get the Bloc Québécois onside. Beginning with my 2007 by-election for the NDP in Outremont, the Bloc rode anti-Muslim sentiment hard. I recall a thoughtful, soul-searching meeting with Alexa McDonough, Ed Broadbent, Jack Layton and our key organizers in the basement of our campaign headquarters where we struggled to find the right words to push back. In that particular by-election, the Bloc was decrying Muslim women’s right to vote with a face covering. We came out four square against the Bloc’s toxic position but personal name-calling wasn’t part of the game plan. We won handily and the Bloc lost two-thirds of it’s vote, finishing third.

In the 2015 general election, of course, the issue came to a head. My support for a woman’s right to wear a niqab at a citizenship ceremony cost us dearly. I remember my campaign director, who’d flown in from Ottawa, imploring me to change my position because it was causing a precipitous drop in Quebec that was playing into our national numbers. Many voters, she said, were just waiting to see whether the NDP or the Liberals, could defeat Harper to make their final choice. She was concerned it could cost us the election. A publication forthcoming in the prestigious Journal of Politics, has confirmed that the NDP got clobbered over the issue of niqabs in Quebec; it was pivotal in deciding the outcome of the election.

In France, even socialist governments have banned certain outward expressions of the Muslim faith. Other religions, such as Sikhism and Judaism have not been spared. Under the guise of separation of church and state, Muslim moms have even been denied the right to accompany their kids on school field trips, because of their headscarves. Outside every school in France is a poster explaining the rules against religious symbols.

Astonishingly, even the European Court of Human Rights has upheld the ban. Public French intellectuals like Michel Houellebecq and Élisabeth Badinter write openly about the threat religious symbols pose to French society.

For those of us who support Canada’s multicultural traditions, such views are an anathema. From our perspective, it’s easy to view them as racist, which I do. In Europe, they are widely shared and accepted as being part of public debate and have gained some currency here amongst those who find fault with multiculturalism.

When Quebec Premier François Legault is asked about systemic racism in Quebec, he too restates the question: “Ah, you’re saying all Quebecers are racist, and I’m saying some Quebecers are racist but that Quebecers are not systematically racist.” It’s a rhetorical trick where politicians repeat the issue in terms that suit their purpose while answering their own question.

Systemic racism doesn’t mean everyone is systematically racist. It means the dice are loaded against some members of our society because of their ethnic, religious or cultural origin. The result of that racism within the system can be proven by looking at results, measuring and comparing outcomes. Legault is too well-informed not to know that, but he also knows his base. Like the crafty populist politician he is, he’s talking to that base bysaying, “I won’t let them call you a racist!”

Legault seems to have in part, at least, won his point. In the aftermath of the dispute between Singh and the Bloc a “premiers’ statement” issued by Justin Trudeau and all of the provincial premiers, on Jun. 26, talks several times of racism and discrimination but never uses the word “systemic”.

I made my first appearance in a parliamentary commission in Quebec City on the subject in the mid-80s and it’s an issue I’ve felt passionately about since. Government reports showed a huge, systemic under-representation of minorities in the Quebec civil service back then. We worked hard to change that. It began by making people understand the problem. The situation has indeed improved considerably, but just this month, the Quebec Human Rights Commission released a study showing that there are fewer than half the number of visible minorities in the Quebec civil service than their proportion of the overall population. Historically, this situation is also a reflection of another old divide: there was much discrimination against French-Canadians in the business sector in the past and good civil service jobs were seen as a way of levelling the economic playing field.

These issues are complex and Jagmeet Singh knows that. He has proven it in the past, notably when confrontedby a voter who told him to remove his turban in order to “look more Canadian”. Singh was almost spiritual in his calm reaction. He knew he was dealing with someone who just didn’t get it and it became a teachable moment. Many people called that man a racist, but Singh never did.

Right now Québec has a law on the books, Bill 21, which openly discriminates against religious minorities, in particular against observant Muslims, Sikhs and Jews. Thus far, no opposition party in Parliament, including the NDP, has dared challenge that law for what it is. They all, including Mr. Singh, say Quebec has a right to adopt it. Trudeau is still refusing to refer the case to the Supreme Court and instead, the victims of Bill 21 who  are being denied the right to teach, become cops or government lawyers, will have to fight for years as the issue slowly wends its way through the courts.

Singh could choose to use all of his credibility and deep personal experience with this issue to persuade Trudeau to finally do the right thing and challenge the discriminatory Bill 21 immediately by referring it without delay to the Supreme Court. That would be helpful.

Source: Jagmeet Singh calls MP ‘racist’, but has he forgotten about Bill 21?

Trudeau’s weasel words on Bill 21 are more than his opponents can say

Indeed. Sad:

Jagmeet Singh felt that it was so plain where he stood on the ban on turban- or hijab-wearers in Québec’s public-service, he used “obvious” twice in a span of seven words. “It’s probably pretty obvious to folks that I am obviously against Bill 21.” He laid out his personal hurt, his sadness, his channeled frustrations that a Muslim in hijab cannot teach, or a Jew in yarmulke can’t be a judge.

Which is why, Singh eventually declared, he will … address affordability by taking on powerful corporations. This was, it bears mentioning, in response to debate co-moderator Althia Raj’s question on why he lacked courage to act in any way against the religious symbol law that so saddened him.

It’s not quite accurate to call the section on Bill 21 the most passionate part of the debate, but it was the segment with the most protestations of passion. The vigorously shaking heads of the leaders said no to the law. The lips curled into disapproving frowns. But the eyes of the leaders—unwilling, worried or merely politically calculating—told a different story: they were cast downward, in resignation.

For those who think climate change is this election’s great intractable issue, the broadcast consortium presented you Monday with the leaders’ filibusters on Bill 21. Andrew Scheer spent many of his ticking-down seconds praising Jagmeet Singh’s poise in the wake of the Justin Trudeau brownface revelation, before reassuring Quebec voters who like Bill 21 that he won’t intervene—and, while Scheer knows nobody was seriously worried about this, Canadians can rest assured that a Conservative government won’t pass a federal version of the law. (He did not assure us that the Québec’s French-only legislation will sweep the nation either, so now maybe we should wonder.)

Green Leader Elizabeth May latched on to Scheer’s great time-eater by praising Singh herself, with an odd little riff on white privilege, then added she doesn’t want Ottawa to step  into the debate Québecers are having.

Singh used his rebuttals to talk about “polarization”—not a segue to Bill 21, somehow! Instead, that became a way for him to key on his canned lines about housing costs and corporations.

Bloc Québecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet channeled the absent Premier François Legault and mentioned the don’t tread-on-us popularity of Bill 21 in the province—65 to 70 per cent, and nearly half the population “strongly” backs it.

Trudeau, the only person on stage who seemed to want to handle a Bill 21 question, carved into Singh for sounding like all the leaders onstage who haven’t lived a full life with racial discrimination.

“It’s a question of yes, it’s awkward politically, because as Mr. Blanchet says it is very popular,” the Liberal leader began. “But I am the only one on the stage who has said yes,” he paused on yes, to build up his grand crescendo… “a federal government might have to intervene on this.” Might? That’s his big zinger to defend minority and women’s rights?

Trudeau loaded up again for what seemed like another attempted sock-o against the NDP leader: “So why not act on your convictions and leave the door open to challenging it.” One of those old-timey revolvers in cartoons that actually produced a daffodil, not anything harmful.

The Liberals triumphed in Québec last time as the one party taking a firm stand against a Harper measure on niqabs, when others were squishier in deference to sentiment among Québec voters and caucus members. The field is so much more mealy-mouthed on Canada’s most racist legislation in recent memory that even by standing for not much, Trudeau stands clearly on his own on this one—for non-Quebecers and the minority of people within the province who despise the law.

Trudeau managed to get out his mini-jab about Singh’s convictions while the two were cross-talking, and as the Liberal leader’s words ended, the NDPer finished his own point. To be sure, his final phrase wasn’t directed at Trudeau. Yet it seemed, in a strange way, to be Singh’s way of admitting that he has put political triangulation ahead of principle: “I want to be your prime minister.”  

Source: Trudeau’s weasel words on Bill 21 are more than his opponents can say

Jagmeet Singh is poised and pitch-perfect in the face of a slur

Worth noting:

From the moment the man approached, Jagmeet Singh seemed to sense tension. The NDP leader—the first Canadian federal leader whose skin colour is not white—greeted the Quebec resident in Montreal’s Atwater Market by reaching out and gently touching his arm. “Good to see you, sir,” he began. “You okay?” The man seemed okay, a little quiet, a little hard to read. Then he leaned in. “You know what?” he muttered. “You should cut your turban off…. You’ll look like a Canadian.”

And there it was: a quiet moment of casual racism that, were it not for the CBC video crew and Singh’s lapel mic, would have never been seen by the Canadian public. For Canadians of colour, the scene may seem irritatingly familiar; for the entire country, it is stunningly intimate, so quick and subtle that neither man even looks uncomfortable.

Singh’s response was unflappable: “Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people. That’s the beauty of Canada.” The man did not sound cruel or malicious; indeed, he may not even have considered his comment racist.

It’s not a stretch to assume he supports Quebec’s controversial Bill 21, the “secularism bill,” which bars government workers (including teachers) from wearing religious symbols such as kippas, hijabs or turbans. The law, which is being challenged in court—but which neither Singh nor his main rivals will fight if elected—is a blatant imposition of one group’s values upon a multicultural society.

Yet a striking number of Quebeckers are okay with it. As the man in the video tells Singh, “In Rome, you do as the Romans do.”

To this, as well, Singh’s reply was a master class in dealing with racism: “This is Canada. You can do whatever you like.” Singh walked off to shake some more hands after that, as his new friend called out some surprisingly cordial parting words: “Take care. I hope you win.”

Even if Singh doesn’t win the election, he won this moment.

Source: Jagmeet Singh is poised and pitch-perfect in the face of a slur

Quebec’s Bill 21 should also stir anti-racist outrage among party leaders

Good column by Jack Jedwab:

Somewhat unexpectedly, the issues of discrimination and racism have moved to the forefront in the federal election. At the start of the campaign, answering a journalist’s question about Quebec’s secularism Bill 21, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau left open the possibility of some eventual legal intervention on the legislation. Predictably, there was an almost immediate response from Quebec Premier François Legault, asking all federal leaders to make a pledge to stay out of the matter. With the exception of Trudeau, the other federal party leaders quickly complied. Bill 21 prohibits the wearing of religious symbols by Quebec public school teachers, judges, police officers, prison guards, Crown prosecutors and other public servants in positions of authority, as a way of enshrining the concept of state secularism.

And then, just as the campaign’s attention on Bill 21 waned, some very distasteful photos of a younger Trudeau in brownface and in blackface hit the national and international media. Trudeau apologized many times for his past behaviour and correctly acknowledged that it was highly offensive.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer insisted that the blackface pointed to Trudeau’s lack of judgment and as such raised questions about his ability to govern. During a September 20 campaign stop in PEI, Scheer said all levels of government need to address the types of issues raised by such conduct. He said that “Conservatives will always support measures that tackle discrimination…We’ll always promote policies that promote inclusiveness and equality throughout our society.” Ironically, that’s precisely what needs to be said in addressing Bill 21.

For his part, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made an impassioned plea to all Canadians who were offended by the images of Trudeau in blackface. He chose to speak to those people who have felt the pain of racism and urged them not to give up on themselves, adding that they have value and worth and that they are loved. But that message does not appear to apply to those persons affected by Bill 21. Singh seems unwilling to defend those Quebecers who wear a turban, hijab or kippah and want to teach at a public school in their home province. Paradoxically, while Singh can become prime minister of Canada, he would be unable to teach at a public school in Quebec under Bill 21. By insisting on the need to respect provincial jurisdiction, Singh implies that members of religious minorities need to give up their hope of seeking a career in public service.

Both Scheer’s and Singh’s criticisms of Trudeau and the related concerns about the spread of racism would be more credible if they denounced the discriminatory aspects of Bill 21 rather than bowing to the Quebec Premier’s demands and looking the other way on what Legault insists is a strictly provincial matter.

Perhaps, like many observers, the federal party leaders don’t see any connection between blackface and a state prohibition against educators wearing hijabs, turbans and kippahs in public institutions. Yet the case can surely be made that both arise from subconscious or overt feelings and/or expressions of prejudice that are, regrettably, deemed acceptable by far too many people. The difference is that Trudeau’s use of blackface occurred two decades ago, while the legislation banning religious symbols is the object of current debate.

In the aftermath of the Trudeau blackface incidents, there have been calls for a national conversation about racism. But the tone of this election campaign does not allow for a thoughtful discussion about the ongoing challenge of eliminating racism and discrimination. Ideally, all federal party leaders should work together to combat racism and discrimination, whether it appears in Quebec or anywhere else in the country.

Source: Quebec’s Bill 21 should also stir anti-racist outrage among party leaders

Are there still NDP voters in a province that just passed a religious symbols law? Singh looks to find out

Hard to see him squaring the circle on this one.

Will see during the campaign how much time he spends in Quebec compared to other provinces as possible barometer of prospects:

Quebec’s new law on religious symbols makes minorities feel like they don’t belong in the province, says Jagmeet Singh, and he wants to be the one to lead opposition to the legislation in Ottawa.

The leader of the federal New Democrats says this as he is standing in the food court of a mall in Drummondville, Que., surrounded by locals who support the law and think it’s about time immigrants adapted to Quebec’s culture.

If Singh is to hold on to his party’s 15 seats in Quebec, it will mean connecting with voters in places like Drummondville. That won’t be easy.

“Why do you wear that?” one elderly woman asks, pointing to Singh’s yellow turban. She asks him if he’s been in Canada for a long time.

Another man, Réal Lamott, admits it bothered him to see a politician wearing such a visible religious symbol.

“No, I definitely won’t vote for him,” says Lamott, who backed the Liberals in 2015.

Of the NDP’s 15 seats in Quebec, only three are in Montreal. The bulk of them are in the province’s manufacturing heartland, which stretches between Montreal and Quebec City. Drummondville is right in the middle.

The NDP swept the heartland during the Orange Wave of 2011, when the party won 58 of Quebec’s 75 ridings, but since then political affiliations have drifted toward the right, at least at the provincial level.

This region, its economy driven by mid-sized businesses, was critical to the Coalition Avenir Québec’s sweeping victory in October.

The CAQ’s so-called secularism law, which bars public schoolteachers and other authority figures from wearing religious symbols while at work, hasn’t dented its popularity here. Quite the opposite: According to some polls, the party’s popularity has grown since October’s provincial election.

Striding into these headwinds, Singh campaigned this week, visiting ridings in and around Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Drummondville.

He’s tried to tailor the party’s message to local concerns on this tour.

The NDP’s immigration policy, Singh said, will help businesses deal with the labour shortage, which is particularly acute in Drummondville. Its mass transit plan will bring upgrades to the local train service.

And its proposals for the environment will help smaller municipalities prepare for the more variable weather brought on by climate change.

“That’s what people are talking about,” said Drummondville MP François Choquette, who hung onto his seat for the NDP after he was first elected in 2011.

The religious symbols law is a provincial issue, said Choquette: “I’m concentrating on federal issues.”

Critics of the law, known as Bill 21, have been hoping for more vocal opposition from the federal parties.

The NDP, like the Liberals and the Conservatives, has avoided making any commitments to directly back legal challenges of the law.

Singh, though, went one step further this week, pitching himself as the spokesperson for those Quebecers angered by Bill 21.

“There are a lot of people in Quebec who don’t feel this is the right way to go, and I can be their champion,” he said.

The law, he says, is telling young people from religious minorities that the province where they grew up “is now rejecting you.”

Talk of turban ‘an opportunity’

Political observers are skeptical of Singh’s ability to reconcile that aspiration to lead the anti-Bill 21 vote while holding onto seats in the heartland.

The conventional wisdom among pollsters is that the federal leaders have little to gain in Quebec by being vocal about the issue.

But it would be nigh impossible for Singh to avoid addressing the law head on. Aside from his boldly coloured turban, his kirpan — the small dagger that religious Sikhs carry at all times — was visible as he shook hands in the Drummondville mall.

“Instead of a challenge, I find it’s an opportunity,” he said. “I find it’s the opening of a conversation.”

He offers the woman who was wondering about his turban a quick overview of Sikh history, focusing on the turban’s egalitarian symbolism.

“Well, I think you look quite nice,” she said.

Singh responded by giving her a high-five.

Source: Are there still NDP voters in a province that just passed a religious symbols law? Singh looks to find out

Singh in a bind as NDP must win over Quebecers that support new secularism law

Good column by Patriquin on Singh’s Quebec dilemna:

Were he a teacher in Quebec and not a politician based in Ottawa, Jagmeet Singh would find it difficult to work.

Thanks to Quebec’s “laicity bill,” which became law Sunday, Singh wouldn’t today be able to secure a teaching position with a turban on his head. Had he held this position prior to March 28, the law’s retroactive date of enforcement, he’d be stuck in grandfather-clause purgatory, allowed to wear his turban and kirpan—but lose this right should he be promoted, demoted or transferred to another position. It’s a cruel and confounding position for Singh. As leader of the NDP, he has significant support in Canada’s second-largest province. Yet he couldn’t so much as teach a Grade 4 class in the province, much less join a Quebec police force, guard prisoners in a Quebec jail or be a judge in a Quebec court. He couldn’t even serve as a liquor inspector.

Oddly, the NDP has been remarkably quiet about the demonstrable impingement of its leader’s fundamental rights. The party issued no press release following the judgment. NDP MPs, Quebec and otherwise, were largely and conspicuously silent on the issue. In 2013, the Parti Québécois of the day introduced its “Quebec values charter,” which would have had a similar negative effect on Singh’s ability to work in Quebec. At the time, the NDP called it “state-mandated discrimination,” with then-NDP leader Tom Mulcair vowing to “fight it all the way.” Yet the current incarnation of the NDP met the newly-minted Quebec law with a volley of crickets. There were no promises from the NDP to mount a challenge of the law should it form a government in October. Dissent was limited to Singh himself, who tweeted and otherwise expressed his “sadness” at its passing.

Unfortunately, there is method to the NDP’s silence. Quebec’s new secularism law is an onerous and cynical piece of legislation that tramples on rights secured by both the Canadian and Quebec charter. As a particularly mean-spirited solution for a non-existent problem—that of creeping religiosity in Quebec society—it serves no other purpose than to prop up the nationalist bona fides of Premier François Legault and his Coalition Avenir Québec government. And yet as grievous as it is, the law is remarkably popular amongst the very people Singh and the NDP must court if they wish to have any chance in the looming October election. In short, denouncing Quebec’s law is tantamount to political suicide, for all parties. That silence you hear from the NDP is the noise of political expediency.

How popular is the new law? Nearly three quarters of Quebecers polled believe judges, prosecutors, police and prison guards shouldn’t be allowed to wear religious symbols, according to a Léger Marketing poll for the CAQ government. (Other polls, notably Angus Reid and CROP, reflect similar levels of support.) In fact, according to the Léger poll, nearly 70 per cent of respondents believed the restriction should go even further to include preschool and kindergarten teachers as well. Here, we must acknowledge a bit of political brilliance, however cynical, on the part of Legault. By not including preschool and kindergarten teachers in the religious symbols ban, the premier has sold the law as a demonstration of restraint and compromise. The law “could have gone further,” he said the other day. “There are people who are a little racist and don’t want to see religious symbols anywhere in public.”

The NDP’s relative silence extends to the Conservative Party. While Conservative leader Andrew Scheer gave Quebec’s secularism bill a light spanking last March, the party made no similar overture upon the bill’s passing into law this week. If anything, the Conservative situation in Quebec is even more fraught than that of the NDP: Scheer is courting voters in the province’s exurbs and hinterland, where support for the law is highest (and, not coincidentally, the presence of actual religious minorities is at its lowest.) Scheer is further hampered by another political reality: laws such as the one passed in Quebec have remarkable support in the rest of the country. It is of no coincidence that former prime minister Stephen Harper, with his campaign-era “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line, wasn’t below a bit of Legault-style demagoguery.

And this silence has infected the Liberals as well, albeit to a lesser extent. In 2013, the mere hint of the PQ’s Quebec values charter provoked Justin Trudeau into writing 600 angry words in the Globe and Mail. This time around, it took being asked by a reporter for Justin Trudeau to denounce Quebec’s law.

In keeping relatively quiet on the political excesses of the current Quebec government, perhaps the NDP and others are simply learning from history. At a French-language debate during the 2015 election campaign, NDP leader Mulcair offered by far the loudest critique of Harper’s anti-niqab stance—and the PQ’s values charter by extension. “No one here is pro-niqab. We realize that we live in a society where we must have confidence in the authority of the tribunals, even if the practice is uncomfortable to us,” Mulcair said.

Mulcair’s was a righteous, nuanced and altogether sensible critique of the very type of identity-based politics practised by Harper then and Legault now. It also doomed the NDP, with Mulcair’s support diving at almost the exact moment he uttered the words. No wonder the current crop of federal leaders are so scared to say anything.

Source: Singh in a bind as NDP must win over Quebecers that support new secularism law

Douglas Todd: Jagmeet Singh’s byelection battle in super-diverse Burnaby

More on Burnaby South:

The Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha gurdwara in Burnaby was packed recently for a speech by Jagmeet Singh, the federal New Democratic Party leader.

About 800 people squeezed into the Sikh temple, in the heart of the ethnically super-diverse riding of Burnaby South, where Singh is fighting for the first time win a seat as a federal MP. The Punjabi-language Sach Di Awaaz newspaper ran 12 photos of the event featuring the Ontario-based politician.

At the gurdwara this week, Sikhs said they want Singh to win, hoping he’ll make moves to improve education and the job market. A variety of ethnic Chinese and Caucasians walking in the vicinity of the temple also said they intend to vote for Singh, with one man remarking he hoped it will “shake things up.”

Ethnicity has already been highlighted as a factor in the crucial Burnaby South byelection.

A member of the Burnaby gurdwara holds a copy of the free bi-weekly Sach Di Awaaz newspaper that shows NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh at to speak to hundreds of people.

This week, media reported on the way Liberal candidate Karen Wang said in a WeChat post that, as the only Chinese candidate, she could beat Singh, who she noted is of “Indian descent.” Wang said the post was written by a campaign volunteer, but she took responsibility for it and apologized to Singh. Under pressure from the Liberals for her remark, Wang dropped out of the race, although she hinted Thursday there is a slim chance she’ll run as an independent.

Burnaby is known as one the most diverse cities in Canada, if not the world. An earlier Vancouver Sun study found there’s a 73 per cent chance that two randomly chosen people from Burnaby will be of a different ethnicities. For comparison, the chance is just 34 per cent in Ottawa.

The riding of South Burnaby is almost 40 per cent ethnic Chinese, 30 per cent white, eight per cent South Asian (a category that includes most Sikhs), six per cent Filipino and three per cent Korean.

Given the riding’s eclectic ethnic makeup, the proportion of South Asians and Sikhs within it is not nearly as large as it is in other pockets. The modest Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha gurdwara is the only Sikh temple in South Burnaby, whereas there are many gurdwaras serving the large Sikh populations concentrated in places such as Surrey and the western suburbs of Toronto.

The successful campaign of Singh, a turban-wearing orthodox Sikh, for the 2017 NDP leadership relied significantly on him visiting gurdwaras and drumming up support from Sikhs, who almost all have roots in the Punjab region of India.

Such South Asians were tremendous financial supporters of Singh during the leadership race, which he surprisingly won with 54 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

Elections Canada data shows Singh collected $603,000 in the year of the NDP leadership convention. More than nine out of 10 of his donors in that year had South Asian names, specifically Punjabi and Sikh (Sikhs often include “Singh” or “Kaur” as one of their names).

Donors to Singh’s leadership campaign — which boasted about signing up a dramatically high number of new NDP members — hailed heavily from the western Toronto suburbs of Brampton and Mississauga, and from Surrey. More than a third of Singh’s 2017 campaign funding came from those three municipalities alone.

The federal Liberals have also long been aware of the political power linked to the related issues of ethnicity and immigration status. They could be major factors in the riding of South Burnaby, since six in 10 residents of the riding are either immigrants or non-permanent residents. That’s triple the national average of two out of 10.

The Trudeau Liberals frequently highlight how they are increasing Canada’s annual immigration levels to 340,000, from 250,000 in 2015 under the Conservatives. And Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has recently been goading the Conservatives on Twitter for not being as supportive of family-reunification programs, which are especially important to many extended South Asian families.

At the gurdwara in South Burnaby this week, some visitors supported the Liberals’ moves to increase the number of sponsored spouses, parents, and grandparents permitted into Canada under the family-reunification program. People interviewed at the gurdwara, who did not want their names used, said they had relatives in the Punjab they would like to bring to Canada.

How much is ethnicity, culture, immigration status and religion a factor in Canadian politics? Some people on social media found it controversial in 2018 that Caucasian candidates for city councils in Metro Vancouver appeared to be relatively more successful than candidates from other ethnic groups, leading to the derogatory Twitter hashtag #councilsowhite.

Data have not been made publicly available in Canada, however, on the extent that people of any particular ethno-cultural group vote for candidates of their own ethnicity. Privately, though, Canadian political party strategists often target voters based on which group they belong to. The federal Conservatives, for instance, have over the years won many votes from evangelical Christians.

But since the NDP candidate for Burnaby South won the riding in 2015 with only 500 more votes than the Liberal candidate, Singh will need to work hard to appeal to voters outside his own ethno-cultural-religious group if he is to hold onto the seat for the party he now leads.

Source: Douglas Todd: Jagmeet Singh’s byelection battle in super-diverse Burnaby

Jagmeet Singh should ask, ‘What would Thomas D’Arcy McGee do?’ – Macleans.ca

Good piece by Geddes:

I asked University of Toronto history professor David Wilson, author of a landmark two-volume Thomas D’Arcy McGee biography, what the story of the most famous Irish Catholic in Canadian politics in the mid-19th century might tell us about the challenges facing a Sikh in Canadian politics today. In fact, Wilson had already alluded to the parallel in his writing. He told me McGee would differ with Singh on major points—starting with McGee’s insistence, in the House that day in 1867, that no respectable politician should show up at a meeting where violent radicals are lionized on banners and portraits.

Wilson says McGee would scoff at Singh’s stance that it can be productive to share stages with those who advocate violence. “McGee’s position was unequivocally that you should have no truck or trade with such people,” Wilson says. “In fact, any kind of ambivalence, any sense that they were motivated by good intentions, had to be really beaten down. You had to draw a clear line. He was quite happy to polarize the [Irish Catholic] group, because he believed that polarization would isolate and marginalize the revolutionaries.”

Still, McGee’s perspective wouldn’t be congenial to hard-liners today who insist immigrants should somehow stop worrying about what’s going on in their home countries and just be Canadian. On the last day of his life, Wilson says, McGee wrote letters about Irish poetry, and about how Canada’s way of accomodating ethic and religious differences might serve as a model for Ireland. “So, yes, he cared deeply deeply and passionately about Ireland,” Wilson says.

On how immigrants should become Canadian, McGee’s views seem to have been far ahead of his time. Wilson says he didn’t think there was any definitive Canadian identity newcomers needed to take on. “He thought it was completely unrealistic to have an a priori definition of what it was to be Canadian,” Wilson says. “Instead, he saw it as a continuous work in progress, in which different ethnic groups—of course, he’s talking about Irish and Scots and French and English—will bring what he hopes will be the best of their cultures.”

And leave behind the worst. For McGee, the worst of Ireland was embodied by the Fenians. His outspoken opposition to them came, of course, at the ultimate cost: he was assassinated by a shot to the back of the head on April 7, 1868, in Ottawa. A Fenian sympathizer was later convicted of the murder and hanged. In the opening chapter of his engrossing McGee biography, Wilson mentions just two other victims of assassination in Canadian history: Pierre Laporte, murdered by the FLQ in 1970’s October Crisis, and Tara Singh Hayer, a Surrey, B.C., newspaper publisher killed in 1998, after years of speaking out against Sikh separatist violence.

via Jagmeet Singh should ask, ‘What would Thomas D’Arcy McGee do?’ – Macleans.ca

And by Arshy Mann:

His initial unwillingness to call out Talwinder Singh Parmar, the founder of a Sikh extremist organization, as the architect of the Air India bombing has now morphed into a lawyerly response: he accepts the findings of the Air India inquiry, which found that Parmar—who was killed by Punjab police in 1992, and continues to be the subject of conspiracy theories that claim he was in fact an Indian agent—was behind the attack. And when asked whether violence is justified in the name of Sikh liberation, Singh equivocates, stating that these sorts of questions are complex when a religious minority is being systematically murdered by the state.

He’s right—these are complicated issues that can’t be adequately answered in a sound bite. But if Singh wants to be able to go back to talking about pharmacare and taxes and pipelines, he’s going to have to find a way to articulate the pain of the victims of violence perpetrated by Sikhs—or risk his leadership being overrun by the politics of the 1980s.

In some ways, it’s not fair to put the burden of decades of bloody history upon Singh’s shoulders. It’s not his responsibility to condemn every Sikh who has committed an atrocity in the name of the faith. But along with being the leader of the federal NDP, Singh is also the highest-profile Sikh politician outside of India. That, combined with his history of activism on Sikh issues, means these are not questions he has the privilege of dodging.

When he talks about the violence that Sikhs have had perpetrated against them with such passion, and then becomes elusive and defensive when Khalistani violence is raised, it makes it appear that he only cares about the former.

That might be acceptable for a Sikh activist trying to bring greater attention to some of the atrocities that have been done to Sikhs. But a federal leader who is looking to represent the whole country has to do more.

Many Sikhs, including myself, are thankful that he talks about the painful history so many families have endured. Those stories are too rarely told.

But the trauma of those years extends beyond just the Sikh community. It’s time for Singh to talk about them too.

Source: Opinion Jagmeet Singh’s Khalistan problem: The NDP leader talks passionately about anti-Sikh violence—but becomes elusive on the topic of Khalistani violence.

Robin V. Sears: How Jagmeet Singh can teach a lesson on tolerance

Interesting and credible advice, including how to handle Air India questions:

Next year, Canada may face a test of our national foundations, that is our commitment to social inclusion and tolerance. Will this fragile consensus survive the bloodletting of a national election when one of the leadership choices is an ambitious Sikh man, in a time when some partisans would stir the embers of racism?

In the naïve euphoria of a “post-racial Presidency,” how many Americans would have predicted an openly racist American president would follow? The Conservative Party has yet to be persuasive about how deeply it has learned the lessons of its disastrous flirtation with Islamophobic racism. The Quebec political elite still needs to acknowledge the black crow feathers dangling from their lips.

The ability to set these boundaries of acceptable discourse falls heavily on one man.

In 2019, Jagmeet Singh faces Obama’s choice. Obama did not run as a black candidate — to the chagrin of many black activists, like his hopeless pastor who almost single-handedly torpedoed his candidacy. He ran first as the candidate of “the outsiders” — by race, by ethnicity, and by class. Later, he became the candidate and the president, of social justice and race. The sequencing was essential to his success.

Jagmeet Singh might consider a similar story arc. He need not present himself as a Sikh candidate, or even as the champion of non-white Canadians: those credentials are given. Until now, even dog whistle racism gets slapped down here.

So Singh can frame himself as the champion of all that we have achieved, the defender of that edifice against any who would undermine it, and the advocate of what more remains to be done to build a discrimination-free Canada. He can be the candidate who frames the debate on these questions — helping to ensure no one is tempted to whisper against Canadian Muslims, or him, on the basis of his skin or his religion.

Those journalists tempted to use the tragedy of Sikh terrorism to humiliate him should remember this: Singh comes from one of the most persecuted, and discriminated against religions in the world. Thousands of young Sikhs have died in recent decades in circumstances that pass no credible legal test.

Some Sikh zealots, as a result, have taken up arms and dreamed impossible independence dreams. This has been a tragedy for one community, Sikhs themselves. There is virtually no sympathy for the Air-India bombers in the Sikh community here — after all, those who died were predominantly their own children and their parents.

What those journalists who taunt Singh, insisting on a condemnation they dictate, need to understand why that stand-alone demand is so offensive. If the question were, “Given the persecution of your community, the destruction of your temples, and the death of thousands of innocent Sikhs in civil conflict, do you understand why some are tempted by terrorism in response?” You would get a resounding, “No!” and then an explanation of why. Singh might want to deliver that cultural history lesson proactively.

He could also deliver a hammer blow to anyone tempted to again try on a racist subtext by speaking out in Quebec. Attacking the slurs against that mostly progressive and socially inclusive community could be powerful. In preparation, quiet discussions with Quebec civic leaders about how to deliver the message, would be valuable in themselves and a powerful signal to Quebecers that he is listening, not lecturing, advocating not admonishing.

He could cite brave Quebec activists’ resistance to anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Duplessis era; the fight for civil rights for all Quebecers, by Lesage and Levesque. And he could celebrate the solidarity among Jewish and Catholic and Muslim leaders in Quebec City after the tragedy there. Tomorrow is the first anniversary.

Like Obama, he could acknowledge both the sins of the past, but also Lincoln’s “better angels” — our progress won by courageous Canadians in every generation. Underline the need to continue “bending the arc” of history toward justice.

He can remind Quebeckers and all Canadians of the personal bravery of Baldwin and Lafontaine staring down the Protestant and Catholic bigots among their own clans, creating the space that made a nation like Canada a possible dream.

The Canadian sanctimony that says there is no possibility of a racist nativism here is dangerous. The Ontario Human Rights Commission reported in December that nearly half of recent immigrants and refugees reported incidents of discrimination against them.

So, let’s pray that Jagmeet Singh and progressive Canadians can succeed in framing the discussion of inclusion versus racism as a path forward, not one sliding into Trumpian depths.

Source: Robin V. Sears: How Jagmeet Singh can teach a lesson on tolerance