Lewis calls Bill 21 ‘religious discrimination,’ Poilievre hopes Quebec repeals law

A bit more forthcoming criticism of Bill 21 from all contenders, to various degrees:

Conservative leadership contender and rookie MP Leslyn Lewis on Monday called a Quebec law restricting public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols at work “explicit religious discrimination.”

Lewis, who is running for the leadership a second time after placing third in the party’s 2020 race, says Conservatives must make decisions “based on principle” and not how it will be viewed by a particular demographic.

“Even making the right decision for purely political purposes is wrong. While I respect provincial jurisdiction, Bill 21 is explicit religious discrimination and as leader of our party, I will always defend religious freedom,” reads a statement made Monday.

Her stance on Quebec’s controversial secularism law, known by its legislative title of Bill 21, comes as other candidates have staked out their positions on the matter.

Some in the party expect the issue to become a policy debate during the race, which will run until a new leader is picked Sep. 10. So far, there are five candidates running and others have until April 19 to declare and June 3 to sell new memberships.

Different Tory MPs have said they believe the Conservatives must take a stronger stance against Bill 21 and criticized former leader Erin O’Toole for saying that while he personally opposes the law, it’s an issue best left up to Quebecers to decide. By contrast, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has left the door open on federal court intervention.

Lewis vowed Monday that if elected as party leader, she would condemn religious discrimination regardless of “who it is against or where it is happening.”

As a candidate in the 2020 race, Lewis enjoyed strong backing from the party’s social conservative wing, which, among other things, cares about religious freedoms.

Fellow leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre, a longtime Ottawa-area MP who is running as a candidate that champions all forms of freedoms, also came out opposing the law on Monday.

“It is wrong,” he said in a statement.

“If anyone proposed it federally, my government would not allow it to pass. I respect Quebec’s right to make its own laws, but hope the province repeals the bill.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who officially entered the race Sunday, made a point of sayingin the speech he made to announce his candidacy that he forcefully stood against the law and believes the party can win while doing so.

During his time as a municipal leader, he also led the charge on big cities from across the countries pledging money to assist groups that are challenging Bill 21 in court.

Former Quebec premier and leadership candidate Jean Charest has also said he doesn’t support the law.

Source: Lewis calls Bill 21 ‘religious discrimination,’ Poilievre hopes Quebec repeals law

A more independent Canadian foreign policy requires embracing bilingualism

While I will leave to others to comment on the foreign policy aspect,  was struck by this para:

“No doubt, Canadians of diverse backgrounds have important contributions to bring to the foreign service. If a candidate brings energy and intellectual heft to the table but cannot speak one of the official languages, this should not constitute an absolute barrier to employment. But those recruits should be required to spend the first year or two of their careers focused almost exclusively on language training.”

Grudging in tone and ignorant in substance. All foreign service officers must be bilingual (CCC) or undertake language training to become so. One can, of course, debate whether CCC is truly bilingual but the requirement is clearly there.

Knowledge of other languages is an asset given the cost of language training, particularly for more difficult languages (I benefitted from Arabic language training during my time at GAC but only achieved an beginner-to-intermediate level):

In the recent controversy over Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau’s language skills, his defenders have advanced the usual arguments: English is the language of international business; knowing French is an asset, but not essential.

Of course, at issue is not whether a unilingual anglophone can be an effective CEO; it is that an inadequate embrace of bilingualism is a national failure. However, a less often appreciated fact is that Canada’s place on the world stage also depends on us embracing our bilingual history and character. More than ever, Canada’s national sovereignty in a changing world needs to be expressed both domestically and internationally, in French and in English.

Many Canadians may feel relieved by the declining visibility of last century’s tortuous national unity debates. However, this has come at the cost of our commitment to conceive of Canada as a shared political community. Our future as a country depends on the ability of francophones to feel that all of Canada is their home.

Moreover, Canada’s core national unity and identity dilemma remains a challenge. But today, it must be addressed in the context of a more complex international environment

Canada’s decades-long national unity struggles unfolded against a mostly consistent international backdrop: the Cold War and its immediate aftermath, during which our country was fortunate to be neighbours with the world’s unquestioned hegemon. By contrast, in today’s world, change is the norm. The rules that will inform the international order of the coming decades are currently being contested and are far from being settled.

In this new and uncertain era, our interests will not always align with those of our southern neighbour. While Washington may wish to compete with Moscow and Beijing in a bid to maintain its position as the world’s pre-eminent power, Ottawa may legitimately fear that unbridled great power competition will destabilize the rules-based international institutions that have buttressed Canada’s economic prosperity and international position for decades.

By embracing its bilingual identity on the world stage more fully, Canada would distinguish itself from its American neighbour and counter its growing reputation as a “vassal state” of the United States.

Canada requires a more independent foreign policy – one in which we are allied to the US but not necessarily aligned on every file of importance. This, in turn, warrants a term-setting mentality: rather than reacting to threats as they unfold, we must identify and stand by our own interests and vision for international order, even at the cost of occasional disagreements with our allies.

We currently lack the foreign policy framework necessary to develop and sustain such an approach. Looking ahead, a renewed commitment to bilingualism – both in Ottawa and among the population at large – can help to change that. And while some assert that the task of enhancing the diversity and representativeness of Canada’s federal institutions should supersede bilingualism, these goals are not mutually exclusive.

No doubt, Canadians of diverse backgrounds have important contributions to bring to the foreign service. If a candidate brings energy and intellectual heft to the table but cannot speak one of the official languages, this should not constitute an absolute barrier to employment. But those recruits should be required to spend the first year or two of their careers focused almost exclusively on language training.

If individuals wish to join our foreign service, or the federal public service more broadly, they must be willing to advance the interests of Canada. Fostering an independent foreign policy is one such interest – and one that cannot occur in a vacuum. It will rely upon the development of a national strategic approach and school of thought fit for a world in transition, replete with its own vocabulary.

Such a task must, in large part, be pursued through the use of both of our own distinctive national languages. The growing Americanization of our political and intellectual culture – owing to factors such as the gravitational pull of U.S. media and the dominance in policy circles of American concepts – casts doubt on whether a Canada that only thinks in English will ever be able to think for itself.

At a time of significant global change, a strengthened commitment to bilingualism would not only infuse our national project with renewed energy at home, but also signal that Canada is willing to set the terms of its international position.

Jean Charest is a partner at McCarthy Tétrault and was premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012. Zachary Paikin is a research fellow at the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy, a Toronto-based international affairs think tank. Stéphanie Chouinard is associate professor of political science at the Royal Military College and a fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

Source: A more independent Canadian foreign policy requires embracing bilingualism

Quebec Values Charter – Varia

Starting with Jean Charest, former Quebec Premier, who managed the political pressures related to reasonable accommodation through the Bouchard-Taylor Commission and Report:

Invité par un groupe de réflexion sur le fédéralisme, à Montréal, il a affirmé que, dans tous les cas, avant de restreindre des libertés, il faut démontrer qu’il y a un réel problème.

Accompagné de l’ancien premier ministre fédéral Brian Mulroney, M. Charest a souligné qu’il serait difficile pour les Québécois de plaider leur différence reliée à la langue française tout en interdisant celle de certaines personnes.

L’ex-premier ministre du Québec envoyait ainsi une flèche au projet du gouvernement Marois visant notamment à interdire aux employés de l’État de porter des signes religieux ostentatoires en milieu de travail.

Selon lui, une société devrait cultiver le sentiment d’acceptation plutôt que de faire le contraire.

http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/400106/quebec-doit-justifier-la-necessite-d-une-charte-de-la-laicite-dit-jean-charest

A reminder that the PQ government’s approach to secularism is selective:

Le Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec joue un peu le rôle de grand argentier auprès du milieu, qu’il soutient en administrant les sommes dévolues tant à la promotion qu’à la conservation du patrimoine religieux. Depuis 1995, le ministère de la Culture et des Communications a financé le Conseil à une hauteur de plus de 270 millions. Ce montant s’élève dorénavant à 290 millions. « Cette nouvelle entente correspond davantage à la réalité et aux besoins du Québec d’aujourd’hui en matière de protection du patrimoine », a déclaré Maka Kotto.

http://www.ledevoir.com/culture/actualites-culturelles/400099/quebec-debloque-20-millions-pour-le-patrimoine-religieux

More on the saga between Fatima Houda-Pepin and Philippe Coulliard, benefiting nobody apart from the PQ govt:

La députée indépendante a fait connaître mercredi un projet de loi de lutte contre l’intégrisme sur lequel elle travaillait depuis quelques années. « Pendant que moi je luttais contre l’intégrisme au Québec, Philippe Couillard était en train de faire un coup d’argent en Arabie saoudite, qui est la principale mamelle qui finance les intégrismes partout dans le monde, au Canada et au Québec. Donc, il peut toujours courir en essayant de me salir. »

http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/400107/couillard-se-fait-l-allie-des-integristes-accuse-houda-pepin