Jason Kenney dismisses Kellie Leitch’s immigrant-screening proposal, Candice Malcolm former Kenney staffer endorses Leitch’s proposal

Sharp contrast between former CIC Minister Kenney and one of his former staffers, Candice Malcolm. Starting with Kenney:

Federal Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch hasn’t thought through her controversial position on screening immigrants for “anti-Canadian values,” former Tory immigration minister Jason Kenney says.

Following a speech in downtown Calgary on Friday, Mr. Kenney, who is seeking the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership, said he believes Dr. Leitch is pursuing an “improvised position” without understanding the negative impact of her words.

“I don’t take her position seriously. She’s never articulated it before,” Mr. Kenney said.

 “She’s never said a word about this in Parliament, caucus or cabinet. I don’t think she understands the nuance around these issues. You have to be very careful in the way you articulate questions about integration.”

Dr. Leitch, a Conservative MP from Ontario, e-mailed a survey last week to supporters that included a question about whether the federal government should screen potential immigrants and refugees for “anti-Canadian values.”

She later said she is protecting Canadian values from people who believe that women are property and can be beaten or that gays and lesbians should be stoned.

Despite widespread criticism including unflattering comparisons to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, Dr. Leitch has defended her position that screening is needed without saying how immigration officials would actually vet new Canadians.

Source: Jason Kenney dismisses Kellie Leitch’s immigrant-screening proposal – The Globe and Mail

And Malcolm’s defence of Leitch:

To most Canadians, this is a perfectly reasonable suggestion. In fact, back in 2011 the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation commissioned a report through Dalhousie University that asked very similar questions.

In that survey, 97% of Canadians agreed that values such as “gender equality”and “tolerance of others” must be embraced by newcomers. Likewise, 96% of immigrant Canadians agreed with embracing Canadian values.

According to a Globe and Mail report at the time,the survey demonstrated “a solid consensus around the notion that immigrants should accept certain values as a precondition for joining Canadian society.”

A “pre-condition” – meaning potential immigrants should accept these values before coming to Canada.

The survey also found that nine in 10 Canadians believed that Canadian laws should take precedence over religious laws and that newcomers should learn about Canada’s history and culture. Eight in 10 Canadians supported the idea that immigrants should “raise their children as Canadians.”

The overwhelmingly majority of Canadians believed that newcomers should accept our values. And the media hardly raised an eyebrow.

That was then, and this is now.

Five years ago, we all agreed that Canadian values were cherished and worth protecting. We were confident in ourselves and proud of our country. We celebrated our Canadian values, and weren’t afraid to promote our way of life to newcomers. But things have changed.

In 2016, any suggestion that our values are important leads to name-calling and hysteria. Leitch has received a fury of condemnation from media elites, Liberals and even many of her fellow Conservative caucus members.

They’ve accused her of “xenophobia,” “racism,”“dog-whistle politics,” and compared her to Donald Trump. The comparison is silly.

Trump has been successful in the U.S. for lashing out at the establishment, brazenly opposing political correctness and making shocking comments about various minority groups. He irresponsibly called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S., categorized Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and initially failed to denounce a former KKK leader.

Trump has built his candidacy around emotional appeals to American greatness,while not-so-subtly winking at racists and white supremacists.

Leitch, by stark contrast, made a simple suggestion about standing up for Canadian values, and followed up with a thoughtful explanation.

But elites in Canada are paranoid. The rise of Trump in the U.S, alongside the resurgence of nationalism and anti-immigration parties in Europe, has made many nervous. Wary of a similar movement in Canada, many are determined to nip discussions of integration and immigration reform in the bud before they grow.

This shows a lack of confidence in Canadian commonsense. Not every conservative is aDonald Trump in waiting. Not every proposal surrounding immigrant and integration is tantamount to Trumpian racism.

Kellie Leitch is no Donald Trump

Can Jason Kenney throw a rope around Alberta’s unruly Right? Delacourt

Good column by Susan Delacourt on Kenney’ s move to Alberta politics and his many strengths, with a nice shout out to my books:

One of the events obliged panelists to give quick answers to provocative questions posed by the audience. “Who’s the best cabinet minister in Ottawa right now?” someone asked. I didn’t even have to pause for thought: “Jason Kenney,” I said. Many others on stage and in the audience shared that view.

It wasn’t just his reputation for hard work, although that certainly was a factor. Kenney was everywhere in the old Conservative government, building his clout on the political front (with those cultural communities and others) but also on the policy front. I was told once that Kenney had a representative at every meeting in Ottawa, keeping tabs on all kinds of decision-making processes, even those beyond his ministerial brief.

open quote 761b1bKenney does have strong views (no one’s going to mistake him for a Red Tory) but the caricatures ignore his practical side. And party mergers need practical politicians.

For a sense of what kind of minister Kenney was, I tend to urge people to take a look at books published by Andrew Griffith, a former director general in Kenney’s old department of Multiculturalism. Griffith has written revealingly of a public service coming to grips with a minister who had definite ideas about how to blend policy and politics, evidence and anecdote.

And where many ministers hewed to the PMO diktat and avoided contact with the media, Kenney was eminently approachable. I don’t think he ever said no when I asked him for comment on one thing or another. (Though he hasn’t replied to a message I sent him today as I was writing this article.)

For years he held annual Christmas parties at which reporters were not only welcome, but positively encouraged. The reward for attending was getting to hear Kenney tell funny, behind-the-scenes stories about the Harper government — nothing headline-making, just anecdotes that presented his political workplace as a little less stuffy and aloof.

And it was never hard to find opposition MPs during the Harper years willing to say that Kenney (along with John Baird) was one of the more co-operative ministers in cabinet, willing to occasionally drop the hyper-partisan posture that characterized so much of that government’s style.

This version of Jason Kenney is at odds, naturally, with the caricature painted by his critics — of a rigid, even scary, ideologue. Kenney does have strong views (no one’s going to mistake him for a Red Tory) but the caricatures ignore this high-energy politician’s practical side.

And party mergers need practical politicians. Harper was a pragmatist when he set about uniting the old federal PC party with the Canadian Alliance back in 2003.

Still, I will concede that I’m finding it hard to square the more nuanced Kenney I saw with the politician who tweeted out his support for the Brexit vote a couple of weeks ago. Given that much of Brexit’s support came from hostility towards immigrants, it seemed odd, to say the least, to see a former immigration minister — a courter of cultural communities — on that side of the question.

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, I noticed, also seemed at a loss to explain the support for Brexit from the likes of Kenney and Tony Clement in an interview last weekend on CBC’s The House — suggesting vaguely that it might have something to do with friendships they’ve forged abroad.

Perhaps it was just Kenney keeping things interesting, blurring the tidy lines of the boxes people want to throw around him. If he is going to seek the leadership of the Alberta PCs, that in itself is a bit of a surprise; many people expected to see him seek the leadership of the federal Conservatives.

It may not be a good sign for those federal Conservatives that Kenney sees his future elsewhere right now. He became pretty adept — as his old boss would attest — at figuring out where there was room for growth in the conservative movement.

Could he pull off a merger in Alberta? I wouldn’t put it past him. Kenney has developed a knack for doing — and being — the unexpected.

Source: Can Jason Kenney throw a rope around Alberta’s unruly Right?

Michael Den Tandt on the Brexit and Canada: Two crucial lessons for Liberals

Good commentary by Den Tandt on some of the lessons for the Liberal government, not to mention the Conservative opposition and the observations regarding Jason Kenney and Tony Clement’s support for Brexit:

Dear Prime Minister David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and the rest: Thank you, so very much. You’ve done the twin causes of stability and unity in your former Dominion of Canada ever so much good.

For what Canadian provincial or federal leader now, witnessing the catastrophic cock-up of your Brexit referendum, will do other than duck for cover next time there’s talk of a plebiscite here to dramatically restructure anything more important than a yard sale?

It was curious, bizarre even, to see senior federal Conservatives emerge on social media early Friday, as the “victory” for the Leave side in the Brexit vote became clear, to beat the drum for St. George. “Congratulations to the British people for choosing hope over fear,” enthused former minister-of-everything Jason Kenney, “by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world!” Tony Clement, erstwhile Treasury Board president, called it a “magnificent exercise in democracy,” before slipping in a renewed call for a referendum on Canadian electoral reform.

Or, here’s another thought: The Liberals could shelve electoral reform and focus on more important stuff, this term, such as jobs.

Democracy is, indeed, magnificent. That’s why the Scots are now ramping up at breakneck speed for a do-over of their own 2014 referendum on independence from Britain, which post-Brexit surveys suggest will now swing in favour, because the Scots wish overwhelmingly to remain European.

Ireland, only recently at peace, now faces renewed turmoil at the prospect of a hard border separating Northern Ireland, still part of the United Kingdom, from the Republic of Ireland, soon to be Europe’s Westernmost outpost. Irish union, as the United Kingdom comes apart at the seams, is not out of the question. Hope over fear, indeed.

This is assuming, of course, that the UK leaves the European Union at all. Though it seems wildly improbable to imagine the referendum, 51.9 per cent for Leave, 48.1 per cent for Remain, being set aside, it is in theory possible, as long as Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which governs an EU member state’s withdrawal, is not invoked.

…All of which brings us back to Canada. Brexit is xenophobic; Brexit is anti-immigrant; Brexit is nostalgic, insular, anti-international and anti-globalization; Brexit is, most of all, an expression of English ethnic nationalism.The federal Conservatives under Stephen Harper, with Kenney himself in the lead, founded their 2011 majority on openness to ethnic pluralism. They undid much of that good work in 2015 with their niqab debate and “barbaric cultural practices” tip line. That any Conservative, Kenney most of all, should have failed to connect these dots is astonishing. Perhaps that’s why Canadian Conservative Brexit cheerleaders have also gone eerily quiet since those initial outpourings of joy.

But it’s not just the Tories who can watch and learn. There are now two threads connecting populist, anti-internationalist, xenophobic movements worldwide. The first is income inequality and poverty among the rural working class, which in England voted as a block for Brexit. The second is the fear of Islamism, manifested in suspicion of immigrants and refugees, which fueled the Leave campaign.

Fixing inequality, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals say, is their job one. But they face a looming economic catastrophe in the resource sector, which can only be addressed through pipeline development and freer trade. Working people need decent-paying jobs. From where will these come in Canada, if ideological and mostly urban anti-pipeline advocates, together with anti-globalization tub thumpers, are left to own the debate, as they do now? The Liberals need to build the case for pipelines and for liberalized trade, while they still have an audience for such.

As for Islamism, the Syrian civil war and ISIL continue to threaten Southern Europe and by extension the West. Until ISIL is destroyed and its territory taken away, there will be no end to the northward flow of refugees, and no political stability in Europe. Canada can do more and should do more to help Europe in this fight — while there remains a Europe to help.

Source: Michael Den Tandt on the Brexit and Canada: Two crucial lessons for Liberals | National Post

Perception of politicization of the public service is a problem for Liberals | Ottawa Citizen

Not unexpected to hear this kind of criticism from the opposition, as well as the more-balance assessments from others:

The appointment of Matthew Mendelsohn, who helped write the Liberal election platform, as a senior-ranking bureaucrat is a “clear, unprecedented and blunt” politicization of Canada’s non-partisan public service, says former Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney.

Kenney said the previous Conservative government — which had a rocky and sometimes hostile relationship with the bureaucracy — would have been vilified if it “plunked” such a key election player into the top ranks of the Privy Council Office (PCO).

“The real shocker here is his appointment to a No. 2 position in the PCO, the summit of the entire public service,” said Kenney in an interview. “A fellow who worked as a partisan political Liberal on the election campaign … I don’t think there is any precedent for this.”

That perception has dogged the Liberals since Mendelsohn was appointed in December as a deputy secretary in the PCO to head a new “results and delivery” secretariat to ensure election promises are tracked and met.

Results and delivery are big priorities for the Liberals and the public service has a lousy track record at both. By all accounts, Mendelsohn is working hard to get buy-in from ministers, deputy ministers and departments on creating a “delivery culture” in government.

And there seems little debate Mendelsohn is qualified. He is an academic, founding director of the Mowat Centre, an Ontario think-tank, a former deputy minister of several provincial portfolios; an associate cabinet secretary in Ontario and a one-time public servant.

But his bona fides include a leave from the Mowat Centre to work on the Liberal platform and help pen Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letters for ministers.

He is also part of the Dalton McGuinty-Kathleen Wynne brain trust that has joined the Trudeau government.

He worked with Queen’s Park veterans Katie Telford, now Trudeau’s chief of staff, and Gerald Butts, his principal secretary. (Mendelsohn’s wife, Kirsten Mercer, was Wynne’s justice policy adviser who moved to Ottawa to become chief of staff for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould but has since been replaced.)

“The closer you fly to the action the bigger the risk of being branded,” said David Zussman, who holds the Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa. He was recruited into PCO to help lead the Jean Chrétien government’s massive program review.

Zussman also cautions the government has to be careful about the perception that it is too Ontario-centric when staffing ministers’ offices.

“They need a national perspective in ministers’ offices and they have to be careful about that. They could all be meritorious appointments but if they all come from the same place they are not as valuable to ministers as people who come from across the country,” he said.

Ralph Heintzman, a research professor at University of Ottawa, was a harsh critic of the Tory government for politicizing the public service particularly for using government communications to promote party interests.

Heintzman, a key player in writing the public service’s ethics code, feels Mendelsohn’s appointment is within bounds. He was tapped as a policy expert for the platform but wasn’t a candidate or campaign worker.

But perception is reality in politics and Heintzman said Mendelsohn had “sufficient involvement” with the Liberals that the government will now have to be sensitive to all future appointments.

“The very fact the appointment created a perception, fair or not, creates a new situation for the Liberals in the future because it will have to be very sensitive about any future appointments from outside the public service to make sure those impressions aren’t reinforced,” said Heintzman.

That could pose a problem for a government that is anxious to renew the public service and bring in new talent and skills to fill many policy and operational gaps.

The public service has long been criticized for monastic and a “closed shop.” In fact, former PCO Clerk Janice Charette made recruitment, including bringing in mid-career and senior executives, one of her top three priorities.

Source: Perception of politicization of the public service is a problem for Liberals | Ottawa Citizen

From a different angle, Geoff Norquay, a former staffer to former PM Mulroney, argues for greater movement between the two spheres:

We learned this week that a significant number of public servants have been joining ministerial offices in the new Liberal government.

The knee-jerk reactions of some Conservative commentators were predictable enough: “It absolutely feeds into the perception that the civil service favours the Liberals, and that the public service is becoming more political,” said Michele Austin, a former chief of staff to two Harper government ministers.

I believe these reactions are wrong, for several reasons.

Canada has a non-partisan public service, but people have been crossing back and forth between the public service and political offices for many years. It used to be a normal process and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it’s a good thing.

Until the Harper era, these movements were openly acknowledged and positively sanctioned, because people from ministers’ offices wishing to cross over to the public service were given a priority for hiring in the bureaucracy.

As part of his effort to close “revolving doors,” Stephen Harper put a stop to the priority system. That was a mistake. Once it has worked through its top priorities, I hope the new government considers bringing the priority system back.

Ministers’ offices are the nexus where the public service and politics meet. They are the place where political judgments are applied to bureaucratic recommendations, where political desires meet practical realities, and where executive decision-making confronts the art of practical execution.

Far too often, these two sides operate as non-communicating solitudes. When relationships between ministers’ offices and the public service become strained, it’s usually because they don’t understand each other’s motivations, priorities, imperatives and constraints.

Many of these tensions and frustrations can be made more manageable if public service recommendations to ministers are more politically sensitive, and if requests and instructions from the political level are tempered by respect for bureaucratic considerations.

open quote 761b1bCreativity comes from your ability to see the different and conflicting sides of complex issues, and apply what you’ve learned from one field to the challenges of another.

The odds of this happening are much better if at least some people making these calls, and negotiating the interface, have experience on both sides. That’s certainly been my experience through more than forty years of working in and around provincial and federal governments.

Trudeau’s blurring the line between ministries and the public service. Good for him.

Trudeau on Trump: Not ‘smug’, Mr. Kenney — just sensibly alarmed: Kheiriddin

Tasha Kheiriddin on Trudeau’s comments and Jason Kenney’s reaction:

Some criticized Trudeau’s remarks as ungracious. “Regrettably smug comment by PM Trudeau,” sniffed Jason Kenney on Twitter, “re our American friends, who help to defend Canada & our interests globally.” The American Spectator’s Aaron Goldstein called Justin Trudeau “smug and condescending just like Obama.”

But Trudeau wasn’t being smug. He was speaking truth to power, or power-in-waiting — at a time when many in the U.S. would do well to listen. Like his father, Trudeau pointed out something about Americans that Americans are seldom going to notice themselves — that they are all too often oblivious of the interests and experiences of the people with whom they share the planet. The elephant won’t crush the mouse out of malice — but he might do it out of ignorance.

In Trump’s case, the ignorance is wilful — even celebrated by those who profess it. Anti-elitism has combined with racism to fuel Trump’s rise. Malicious verbal — or physical — attacks are visited on those who disagree with him. The ends aren’t justifying the means this time, because the ends have nothing to do with protecting American values or interests. They’re all about Donald Trump — what he wants, the lies he’s willing to tell to get what he wants.

Trump’s campaign carries all the hallmarks of tyranny — towards other nations, towards the American people themselves. And it won’t help Americans defend themselves … or us.

Trudeau on Trump: Not ‘smug’, Mr. Kenney — just sensibly alarmed

John Ivison: Jason Kenney’s newfound energy signals that the Tory leadership race has started in earnest

Good profile by John Ivison on Jason Kenney and his post-election reflections (I have great respect for former Minister Kenney from my time as former DG – Citizenship and Multiculturalism – as chronicled in my book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism):

“The fatal flaw was our tone. It seemed too often the government went out of its way to make enemies, not friends, starting with the media,” he said.

“On identity questions, every public opinion poll demonstrated a super-majority of Canadians supporting the notion that the citizenship oath should be taken openly … So I think we were on the right side of those issues substantively and politically. But when dealing with sensitive issues you have to communicate with great nuance and subtlety. I accept that was not necessarily the case in our campaign.”

The received wisdom is that these mistakes led to a hemorrhaging of support from the loose coalition of new Canadians that Kenney, more than anyone else, had helped knit together. But he disputes there was a repudiation of the Conservative message among ethnic voters.

“We got 32 per cent of the new Canadian vote, down from the low 40s in 2011, which was proportionate to our popular vote. It’s encouraging that it is still a far higher percentage than the Conservative Party has attracted historically. The problem is our vote didn’t grow with the electorate, which was mostly an issue with the under-30s. The bottom line is we now have a competitive environment. It wasn’t catastrophic.”

What Kenney doesn’t say, is that while the Conservatives got 32 percent of the new Canadian vote, this was 20 points behind the Liberals in the 33 ridings where visible minorities are in the majority (905, BC’s lower mainland) – and where he personally invested considerable time in wooing those communities.

It was not only a question of tone in these ridings: a number of citizenship and immigration changes did not, in the end, go down well with many voters.

“Showing up” was not enough.

Source: John Ivison: Jason Kenney’s newfound energy signals that the Tory leadership race has started in earnest

Temporary foreign workers program faces federal review

Not unexpected to see political pressure from Atlantic Canada.

Will be interesting to watch the political debate, given that former Minister Kenney sees one of his legacies threatened (after reversing earlier Conservative policies than made it easier for businesses to hire Temporary Foreign Workers) and the degree to which the Government responds:

While the Liberals criticized the Conservative government’s handling of the program, the party did not propose reforms in its 2015 election platform.

All seats in Atlantic Canada went to Liberals, and MPs from the region are pressing hard for changes, saying the restrictions hurt seasonal businesses and the service sector.

Nova Scotia Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner, who is also Ms. Mihychuk’s parliamentary secretary, said the program needs to be overhauled to take into account the demands of seasonal businesses.

“Changes over the last couple of years have impacted seasonal industries. We still generate over 50 per cent of the regional GDP through seasonal industries. The work force is getting older. The out-migration is significant,” he said.

Yvonne Jones, the Liberal MP from Labrador, said the changes to the TFW program hurt her province’s tourism and fish processing industries, making it difficult to get seasonal labour.

“Because of the fact we are unable to recruit under the temporary foreign worker program, we have seen a lot of businesses having to close or scale back their hours and days of operations. This is really affecting services to communities that need that service,” Ms. Jones said.

Conservative MP Jason Kenney, the former minister who overhauled the program, said it would be dumb economic policy to exempt fish plant workers from the terms of the temporary workers program when so many Atlantic Canadians are unemployed and many jobless oil workers are returning from Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“This is classic Liberal position. Make it easy for local fish plant workers to go on unemployment insurance and make it easier for the employers to bring in fish plant workers from overseas,” he said.

Mr. Kenney said one of the reasons his government tightened the rules for employment insurance and temporary foreign workers was that communities in Atlantic Canada had local fish plant workers collecting employment insurance while foreigners were doing their jobs.

Ms. Mihychuk said the review by the Commons employment committee needs to encompass every sector of the economy, including the impact of the collapse in oil prices.

“You look at the massive layoffs in Alberta, it’s really changing the labour market,” she said. “A lot of indigenous people are strongly opposed to [TFW], saying it’s time for indigenous people to be given a chance. So there are a lot of different angles to the whole program.”

Unemployment among aboriginal people is more than twice the rate for non-aboriginals, according to the 2011 National Household Survey.

The Liberals also believe a credible pathway to citizenship for foreign workers is needed.

“It’s a situation that is complicated. These are people – excellent people – and a lot of them want to stay in the country,” Ms. Mihychuk added.

The Liberals say the Conservatives mismanaged the 2014 reforms and based many of their regional employment assumptions on inaccurate labour market data.

“Under the temporary workers program, basically, they connected it to data around employment statistics, but those employment statistics were not completely accurate,” Ms. Jones said. “They looked at large regions as opposed to individual areas where the problem was most sensitive. And because they didn’t go with the [mandatory] long-form census, a lot of the data was incomplete,” she added.

Mr. Kenney said the review is unnecessary, saying the reforms he brought in were balanced and well thought-out.

“I think our changes have turned out to be prescient given the downturn in the western economy, in particular where the most skilled part [of TFW] was being overused. With over 100,000 Albertans having lost their jobs in the past few months, and if more people were pouring into the Alberta labour market from abroad as de facto indentured workers while many Canadians are facing unemployment, that would be totally unacceptable,” he said.

Source: Temporary foreign workers program faces federal review – The Globe and Mail

Ontario lauded for high school history curriculum

While I expect the debate over the teaching of history, and which histories and interpretations, will continue, this improvement over the past five years is noteworthy.

I can only wonder, given Alberta’s poor score, whether it had some influence on the increased emphasis on history in Discover Canada (which was needed), the citizenship guide introduced by former minister Jason Kenney, and the requirement, for teenagers, to take the citizenship knowledge test (not needed):

Ontario stands at the top of the class for its strong Canadian history curriculum in the latest ratings by this country’s history education watchdog — and we trounced Alberta, whose fuzzy timelines and lack of compulsory high school history credit landed it dead last.

Ontario’s rich Grade 10 history credit course — so jam-packed the report suggests it be spread over two years — plus its mandatory half-course in citizenship helped earn it a mark of 82 per cent on the Canadian History Report Card, to be released Monday by Historica Canada, a group that promotes awareness of Canadian history.

Also strong were British Columbia (81 per cent), Quebec (80) and Manitoba (80). However Alberta scored just 62 per cent, and Saskatchewan 69 per cent, in a report that calls for schools to work harder to help students understand their country.

“We tend to be lacking at either the front end — recent history — or the back end before 1867, but we’re getting better, which is important because understanding history helps you understand why we are the way we are,” said Historica president Anthony Wilson-Smith.

If anything, Ontario’s Grade 10 history course tries to cover too much, he said; “from the early 1900s to now — both world wars, the great influenza epidemic, the injustices done to immigrants like the Chinese who didn’t get the vote till 1947… let’s think of that scope! It would be better spread over two years.”

Canadian schools have pulled up their educational socks since 2009, when Historica’s last report card handed out failing grades to five provinces and territories, with two more squeaking by with only 50s.

This report card looked at history curriculum from Grades 4 to 12 to see how well it balances the teaching of timelines with deeper themes like diversity, gender, aboriginal peoples and national identity — and from a range of perspectives, from global to local, social to national.

It also measures how well each province teaches students to think about history using the six “historical thinking concepts” that have to do with historical significance, considering evidence, examining continuity and change, cause and consequence, looking at broader historical perspectives and the ethical dimension.

Wilson-Smith said Canadian schools are moving beyond the perspective of European settlers to include First Nations, women and non-European immigrants’ perspectives, and consider more than just military and economic milestones by discussing ethics and social responsibility.

Historica also consulted classroom teachers, and some in Ontario expressed their frustration at having little time for a deep look at events such as the FLQ crisis, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Indian Act, residential schools, the Montreal Massacre, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, OPEC crisis, the Oka crisis and the Meech Lake Accord, said Historica’s program manager, Bronwyn Graves.

Source: Ontario lauded for high school history curriculum | Toronto Star

The niqab ban: 2011-2015 – The new Liberal government officially puts an end to the former Conservative government’s attempt to ban the niqab during the citizenship oath


The niqab’s emergence as an election issue was unexpected and odd, but perhaps fated–a consequence of the Conservative government’s own policy, its determination to defend the policy in court and the whim of the Federal Court of Appeal’s calendar.

Though seemingly popular, the ban on the niqab is now linked with the Conservative government’s defeat. “Voters—including many who supported him—were personally offended by Harper’s blatant effort to exploit the niqab issue as a divisive wedge in the campaign,” Ensight reported after the election. As a result of that defeat, history will record Bill C-75, an attempt to put the ban into law, as the last piece of legislation tabled in the House of Commons by the Conservative government—its tabling coming just hours before the House adjourned for the last time before the election, an entirely symbolic gesture of pre-campaign posturing. Both the sponsor of the bill, Chris Alexander, and the minister who tabled the bill on his behalf, Tim Uppal, were subsequently defeated on October 19.

The Liberal government’s decision to abandon its predecessor’s legal appeal does not seem to have roused much, if any, condemnation from Conservatives.

Source: The niqab ban: 2011-2015 – Macleans.ca

The formal press release:

“On November 16, 2015, the Attorney General of Canada notified the Supreme Court of Canada that it has discontinued its application for leave to appeal in the case of Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Ishaq. The Federal Court of Canada found that the policy requiring women who wear the niqab to unveil themselves to take the Oath of Citizenship is unlawful on administrative law grounds, and the Federal Court of Appeal upheld this ruling. The government respects the decision of both courts and will not seek further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Canada’s diversity is among its greatest strengths, and today we have ensured that successful citizenship candidates continue to be included in the Canadian family. We are a strong and united country because of, not in spite of, our differences.”

Earlier language by then Minister of Defence (and Multiculturalism) Jason Kenney:

“At that one very public moment of a public declaration of one’s loyalty to one’s fellow citizens and country, one should do so openly, proudly, publicly without one’s face hidden,” Conservative Jason Kenney told reporters in Calgary Wednesday.

“The vast majority of Canadians agree with us and that is why we will be appealing this ruling.” (September 15, 2015)

Source: Statement from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and the Minister of Justice – Canada News Centre

The Conservative Legacy on Multiculturalism: More Cohesion, Less Inclusion 

This post updates an earlier article on how multiculturalism changed under Minister Kenney and the Harper government, taking into account their use of identity politics before and during the recent election Canada Today: Less Hotel, More Live-in Condo). This complements my ‘transition advice’ post, Multiculturalism: Getting the Balance Right – Reflections for a new government.

How has government language and programming changed under the Conservative government, and what is the legacy of Jason Kenney, the Minister for Multiculturalism? And what has been the impact of the niqab controversy and Conservative wedge politics on that legacy?

The overall context is that Canada’s diversity continues to increase, given increased non-European immigration. Diversity varies regionally and municipally, with B.C. and Ontario the most diverse, the Atlantic provinces and cities the least.

Along with this increased diversity, Canadian multiculturalism has continued to evolve since the policy was announced in 1971. The policy and subsequent act had two main aspects: cultural  recognition and equity, both designed to further integration.

The following table captures the evolution from “celebrating differences”to the Harper government’s emphasis on social cohesion. To respond to perceived faith and culture clashes, greater emphasis was placed on shared values, and the original metaphor of the cultural mosaic shifted to “conforming,”a contrast to the “harmony/jazz”of a more fluid approach to integration and accommodation.

CRRF Power of Words Webinar - Short.001

But what were the main policy and program changes made by Minister Kenney since 2007?

Early on, he articulated his vision of multiculturalism, linked closely to citizenship, as follows:

But having criss-crossed this great country; having attended hundreds of events and talked to thousands of new Canadians, I am certain of this: we all want a multiculturalism that builds bridges, not walls, between communities.

We want a Canada where we can celebrate our different cultural traditions, but not at the expense of sharing common Canadian traditions.

We want a country where freedom of conscience is deeply respected, but where we also share basic political values, like a belief in human dignity, equality of opportunity, and the rule of law.

We don’t want a Canada that is a hotel, where people come and go with no abiding connection to our past or to one another, where citizenship means only access to a convenient passport. We want a Canada where we are citizens loyal first and finally to this country and her historically grounded values.

The key to building such a Canada, to maintaining our model of unity-in-diversity, is the successful integration of newcomers.

And that should be the focus of today’s multiculturalism.

Emphasis accordingly shifted from cross-cultural understanding and inclusion to integration and social cohesion. Employment equity within government was replaced by making government more responsive to the needs of Canada’s diverse population. Combating racism and discrimination and encouraging civic participation was replaced by engaging in international discussions, largely focussed on anti-Semitism. Faith communities and related issues became explicitly part of multiculturalism.

While Kenney “flirted”with replacing multiculturalism with “pluralism,” he soon recognized the long-standing “brand value”of multiculturalism and its place in the Charter. No changes were made to the Multiculturalism Act.

Government funding support through grants and contributions was reoriented to these new objectives in the new Inter-Action program. The mix of organizations supported changed accordingly. A new “events stream”was created to support “food and folklore”events that encouraged integration between communities (as well as building political support).

Explicit linkages with citizenship were introduced. The Discover Canada citizenship guide emphasized common Canadian values, a more Conservative historical narrative, and integration rather than accommodation. Symbols that highlight Canadian historical connections to Britain, including the Crown, were highlighted.

The Government delivered on historical recognition for immigration and war-time internment for a number of communities (Chinese, Jewish, Italian, Sikh, and Ukrainian Canadians). These historical events were incorporated into Discover Canada.

Black History and Asian Heritage Months continued, with more emphasis on Canadian history and military. The Paul Yuzyk Award (“the father of multiculturalism”)was created to recognize contributions to Canadian multiculturalism and integration of newcomers (as well as appropriating multiculturalism for the Conservatives).

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation broadened its programming to include inter-faith initiatives and a greater emphasis on common values. The Government invested $30 million into the Global Centre for Pluralism of the Aga Khan based in Ottawa.

Existing federal and provincial multiculturalism networks were maintained, albeit weakened given reduced resources.

Multiculturalism was shifted from Canadian Heritage to Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) in 2008 and folded into CIC’s organizational structure. Resources were reallocated to other functions in CIC. Given CIC’s “centre of gravity”of immigration and decreased emphasis, the program declined in activity and importance.

Kenney remained Minister for Multiculturalism following the Cabinet shuffle of 2013 given the importance of the “fourth sister”in Canadian politics.

At the same time, political outreach to ethnic communities increased. Kenney — “curry in a hurry” — was on the road three weekends out of four, with up to 20 events per weekend. The new “events stream” furthered his outreach. These efforts, according to the Canada Election Survey and related polling, played off particularly well in the 2011 election with older, more well-established communities such as Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Jewish, Chinese and older South Asian communities.

However, this extensive outreach failed to stem the tide in the 2015 election, where the Liberals won 30 of the 33 ridings with majority visible minority population (mainly in the Greater Toronto Area and BC’s Lower mainland). The Conservatives only won two of these seats, losing decisively in terms of the popular vote for all these ridings: 32 percent compared to 52 percent for the Liberals).

Changes to multiculturalism took place in parallel with a greater focus on economic immigration, major refugee reform to reduce the number of refugee claimants, and the 2014 changes to the Citizenship Act making citizenship “harder to get and easier to lose.”The latter makes a clear distinction between born and naturalized Canadians, as the latter (including those born dual nationals) are subject to revocation in cases of terror or treason.

So have these changes made a difference to the multicultural fabric of Canada?

First, all parties continue to actively court ethnic communities. The Conservatives, to their credit, had taken this to a new level, arguing that new Canadians intrinsically shared conservative values like hard work and family. They maintained current levels of immigration (about 250,000 per year) throughout the 2008 recession. Unlike Europe or the U.S., we have no major political party opposed to large-scale immigration. Multiculturalism generally has not been a wedge issue. While there are significant differences, Canadian debate focusses more on specific policies rather than existential debates, Quebec excepted.

However, this approach shifted dramatically in the lead up to the 2015 election and during the campaign itself as the Conservative government increasing practiced wedge politics, singling out Canadian Muslims on issues as diverse as the niqab at citizenship ceremonies, spousal abuse, ‘honour’ crimes and ‘snitch lines.’ Kenney, who had been so vocal in his condemnation in the Parti québécois’s proposed Quebec Values Charter, was complicit in this change. The end result undermined Canada’s social fabric and ultimately backfired as an electoral strategy. The Conservative Party will need to reflect upon the possible long-term effect in its efforts to gain and maintain new Canadian support.

Secondly, while all political parties have closer relations with some communities, the Conservative government was more willing to “pick sides”than others. The shift in Canadian Mid-East policy towards unequivocal support for the Netanyahu government was the most notable example.

Thirdly, the Government emphasized symbolic measures. Citizenship judges are diverse but will largely be limited to a ceremonial role under the new Citizenship Act. But, only three out of some 200 federal judicial appointments were non-white. Visible minority ministers were in junior positions (multiculturalism, sport, seniors). Senate appointments, however, were more representative.

Fourthly, broadening racism and discrimination to relations within and among communities is welcome, given that our largest cities are 25-50 percent visible minorities. However, the government’s almost exclusive focus on anti-Semitism has neglected challenges faced by visible minorities, including Canadian Muslims. While the Conservative government cultivated strong relations with Muslim minority communities such as the Ahmadiyyas and Ismailis, it made little effort to develop relations with ‘mainstream’ Sunni and Shia Muslim communities.

Fifthly, these changes need to be seen in the context of a shift towards economic immigrants and tighter citizenship rules that will likely, over time, slowly drive down the current naturalization rate of 85 percent. This change will affect some communities more than others.

Overall, under Kenney, the Canadian model of multiculturalism returned to its roots by emphasizing integration, recognizing the diverse cultural identities of Canadians so that all Canadians, whatever their origins, could feel part of Canada. However, Canadian Muslims were singled out, wedge politics practiced and equity considerations were downplayed.

As part of citizenship, Kenney implemented a more explicit approach to shared identity and values. “Harmony/jazz”ad hoc improvisation was replaced by “conforming,” to clearer expectations, correcting an imbalance that implied Canada was a clean slate or as a hotel without any sense of what was acceptable and what was not.

Had the Conservative government not played ‘wedge politics’ with Canadian Muslims, it would have ensured a reasonable legacy for the incoming government to build upon. But having done so, it has tarnished its legacy, and perhaps harmed its future political prospects.