Commentary on the use of the term genocide in the MMIWG report

Some of the more interesting commentary on both sides of the issue (I favour the critics on this one):

Starting with Jon Kay:

…….Discussing the number of people killed in a genocide has an inherently dehumanizing effect on individual victims. But numbers matter, since the term “genocide” becomes completely meaningless if is used as a catch-all to describe all forms of homicide that afflict disadvantaged groups. The government of Canada recognizes five genocides—corresponding to Armenia, Rwanda, Ukraine, Bosnia and the Nazi Holocaust. The average fatality count for these genocides was about three million. The total number of Canadian MMIWG killed over the last half century is about one thousandth that number.

A finding of genocide does not require the discovery of concentration camps and gas chambers: As with the Armenian and Ukrainian genocides, one may infer genocidal intent based on policies that inflicted deadly conditions on men, women and children by intentionally destroying their property and livelihoods, or casting them out into the wilderness to die by exposure, starvation or pogroms. This is in fact how many real historical genocides against Indigenous peoples were perpetrated. But that has no relevance to the manner by which MMIWG are dying in 2019—which is not by pogrom or rampaging militia, but by the same ordinarily horrible way that most homicide victims meet their end: domestic violence and street crime. Nor is there statistical evidence to suggest that Canadian constabularies as a whole don’t take these crimes seriously—though there are individual cases in which police have acted disgracefully. “In 2014, a higher proportion of homicides of Aboriginal victims were solved by police compared with non-Aboriginal victims (85 percent versus 71 percent),” the government reportedin 2015.

The homicide rate for Aboriginal females in Canada, measured in 2014, was 4.82 per 100,000 population. This is about 30 percent less than the homicide rate for the entire U.S. population (6.2). So the statistical implication of this week’s report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (to cite the body’s full name) is that the entire United States exists in a daily state of permanent genocide.

Of course, one could attempt to prove the existence of such an ongoing U.S. genocide by claiming—truthfully—that the higher rates of black homicide are connected to the American legacy of slavery and other genocidal practices. But if this sort of historical analysis is invoked as a means to justify the use of the term genocide, then literally every killing known to humankind can be swallowed up by the word, since no human being exists in isolation from the past. And that is just one of the many bizarre corollaries that emerge from this inaccurate use of language: Since about 70 percent of MMIWG are killed by Indigenous men, the effect of this week’s declaration is to present Canada’s Indigenous peoples as genocidaires of themselves.

Despite this, many Canadians seem anxious to embrace the report, as it affirms the simple narrative that the challenges faced by Canada’s Indigenous peoples are largely the result of white racism, and so can be solved if Canadians simply awaken to their own collective bigotry. Indeed, the problem of MMIWG has been studied comprehensively on previous occasions, and so it was never completely clear what this new inquiry would supply Canada, except a sort of quasi-evangelical call to arms against the forces of racism. Given this, the inquiry commissioners no doubt felt enormous pressure to deliver a dramatic new re-formulation of the moral stakes at play in the MMIWG crisis, which perhaps explains their decision to supply a grandiose new label to stick on front pages.

In the long run, the effect of this will be not only to erode the moral force of the term genocide, but also to hurt indigenous people by encouraging the terrifying and condescending conceit that their status in Canada is akin to that of Tutsis in 1994 Rwanda or Jews in 1939 Germany. The MMIWG inquiry set out 231 recommendations, which deserve to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the whole $92-million exercise now is coloured by the rhetorical overreach surrounding the final report.

All societies lie to themselves about genocide. But the nature of the lies change over time. In Tacitus’ channeling of Calgacus, the Romans would “make a solitude and call it peace.” In Canada, we now do something closer to the opposite—summoning into being a spirit of genocide that hasn’t existed since those shameful days of universal plunder.

Source: The Ultimate ‘Concept Creep’: How a Canadian Inquiry Strips the Word ‘Genocide’ of Meaning

Neil Macdonald, on the other hand, avoids the issue:

Buller, with her serene smile, was explicit at the ceremony: “The significant, persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered human and indigenous rights violations and abuses perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state … is the cause of the disappearances, murders, and violence experienced by Indigenous women … and this is genocide.”

I’m not going to argue with that, as some foolish people like former Conservative minister Bernard Valcourt have already loudly done. Quibbling over the definition of genocide does nothing but help obscure the long history of vicious racism and undeniable suffering of Indigenous people in this country. It’s bad enough whatever you want to call it.

Source: Opinion: Our casual racism causes Indigenous suffering: Neil MacdonaldQuibbling over the definition of genocide does nothing but help obscure the long history of vicious racism and undeniable suffering of Indigenous people in this country. It’s bad enough whatever you want to call it.Opinion |8 hours ago,

Tanya Talaga makes the case in favour, but one that I find less convincing than the arguments against:

Almost four years to the day after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said Canada committed a cultural genocide against Indigenous people, the national inquiry into our murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls took it a step further.

They said the death of our women, by the thousands, was simply a genocide.

The echo is not coincidental.

The genocidal process was the same.

In the words of the four-person commission, the epidemic of deaths and disappearances is the direct result of a “persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered … rights violations and abuses, perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state, designed to displace Indigenous people from their lands, social structures and governments, and to eradicate their existence as nations, communities, families and individuals.”

As expected, the protests quickly emerged. This is no “genocide,” the critics said. The coast-to-coast-to-coast commission, which interviewed over 2,000 families, survivors and knowledge keepers, exaggerated or got it wrong. Former aboriginal affairs minister Bernard Valcourt, who served under Stephen Harper, started off the bashing with a bang:

“What has been the cost to Canadians for this propagandist report?” he tweeted.

For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to say the word “genocide” as he addressed the assembled families, survivors and commissioners.

But those of us who have been on the wrong side of the “persistent and deliberate pattern” know that “genocide” is the right word.

As the ceremony began, it was Chief Commissioner Marion Buller who said the hard truth is that “we live in a country whose laws and institutions perpetuate violations of fundamental rights, amounting to a genocide.”

Buller, the first appointed First Nations female judge in British Columbia, took a lot of heat when the inquiry began. Members of her team were quitting, families weren’t being properly notified or compensated. Many said her mandate was overly narrow. Yet she weathered it all and fulfilled her highest purpose. She gave voice to the victims.

The inescapable conclusion of all their harrowing and beautiful testimony is that “genocide” is the only word for the state-enabled deaths of thousands of sisters, aunties, grandmothers, cousins and friends.

So why won’t our prime minister say it? What’s he afraid of?

Perhaps he understands that calling the genocide a genocide would acknowledge that his government — and others — are morally culpable for the losses of the thousands of our women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Or maybe it was the legal culpability that worried him; lawyers no doubt advised Trudeau not to say it. The pollsters, too, were probably against it, as we edge towards an election. It isn’t as easy to take a principled stand when votes are potentially at stake.

Whatever his reasons, his omission was telling. But it hardly dampened the power of the day.

“We don’t need to hear the word genocide come out of the prime minister’s mouth because families have told us their truth,” Buller said during the press conference.

The families of the taken, not forgotten women, agree. They don’t need to hear arguments over what constitutes genocide. They know it to be true because they live it.

As the ceremony drew to a close on Monday, Thunder Bay’s Maddy Murray stopped me and asked me to remember Alinda Lahteenmaki, who died in Winnipeg on Jan. 30, 2009 after plunging 11 storeys. She was 23 years old and her boyfriend pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

“There is no closure,” she said to me as the drums began to beat the warrior song.

But there can be an end to the violence.

The murders and rapes, the violence against Indigenous women and girls will continue until Canada confronts the genocide and the long-promised new relationship is finally delivered.

This requires that Canada confront the historical disadvantages, intergenerational trauma, and discrimination experienced by Indigenous people, the report explained. And that begins with making significant strides toward substantive equality through changes to our justice system, to policing, to social and health services, to education, to everything Canada prides itself on and holds dear.

To many, these institutions are a symbol of what makes Canada great. But the report makes clear that they are far from perfect. That they are rigged against Canada’s first peoples. That they are tools of colonial violence, of genocide.

That is the conclusion of Buller and her team of commissioners.

It is disappointing that many of our politicians refuse to say the word. It would be far worse — a terrible tragedy — if they continued to be complicit in the act.

Source: Tanya Talaga: Why can’t we use the word genocide 

The more pragmatic takes include Chantal Hébert:

As opposition leader in the lead-up to the last federal election, Justin Trudeau did not waste a single day to commit to implement the 94 recommendations of the truth and reconciliation commission.

He made the promise mere hours after the commission reported on the damage inflicted on Canada’s Indigenous peoples by the residential school system and the way forward.

Almost four years into the Liberals’ current term, Trudeau’s government is still struggling to honour that pledge.

That goes some way to account for the contrast in the reception he gave on Monday to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The prime minister refrained from embracing its 200-plus recommendations, sticking instead to a more general promise to not let the report gather dust.

Most notably, Trudeau steered clear of endorsing the group’s core finding that a planned genocide was the root cause of the violence endured by past and present generations of Indigenous women.

It remains to be seen whether the provocative conclusion that tops the inquiry’s prescriptions will eventually resurface in an official government of Canada statement or in Trudeau’s promised action plan.

Equating the violence Indigenous women have and, in many cases, continue to endure with the interracial mass killings that saw thousands massacred by their compatriots in Rwanda in the late nineties will not come easily to many Canadians or their elected officials.

Indeed, one of the first to reject the equation on Monday was none other than Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian general who led a UN force of peacekeepers in Rwanda at the time of that genocide and who continues to suffer mental anguish from having been powerless to prevent it.

The risk here is that the argument over the use of the term “genocide” steals the show from the reforms the report advocates.

No one — least of all the Indigenous women whose future the inquiry is determined to help make brighter — will be advanced by a fight over what to call an undeniably dismal legacy of discrimination.

As the distinct society debate demonstrated at the time of the Canada/Quebec constitutional wars, words often take on a life of their own, to the detriment of the reconciliation they are meant to advance.

The commission sets ambitious goals and the authors of the report insist their prescriptions are a package deal that has to be accepted as a whole by all levels of governments.

In so doing, they may be programming their report to fail.

One only needs to look at the federation’s difficulty in coming to a common federal-provincial approach to climate change and carbon pricing to know that even with the strongest political will no federal government has it in its power to force the provinces to sing from its hymn book.

The combination of an all-or-nothing approach to the report’s implementation combined with the implication that anyone not on board with its findings is somewhat complicit in a genocide was likely designed to induce a greater sense of public urgency. But it could achieve the opposite.

In the ongoing debate over climate change, increasingly dire predictions about the impact of global warming have as often as not overwhelmed large segments of the target audience. Many simply tuned out.

Every prime minister since Brian Mulroney has either had an Indigenous-related inquiry in progress or had a multi-year commission report on his watch.

It has been 26 years since the Erasmus-Dussault commission handed the federal government of the day a 20-year plan to reset the relationship between Canada and its Indigenous peoples.

That report was the fruit of five year’s work. It was 4,000 pages long and it listed 440 recommendations. Most of them have not been implemented.

In 2015, the truth and reconciliation report — at more than 2,500 pages over six volumes — produced 94 recommendations. (That comparatively modest number is somewhat misleading as more than a few had multiple subsets.) Their implementation is, at best, still a work in progress.

On Monday, the national inquiry recycled many of its predecessors’ recommendations. It expanded the scope of previous prescriptions that have yet to be even partly followed up on.

The 2015 truth and reconciliation report described the residential schools as a feature of a “cultural genocide” and issued “calls for action.”

The national inquiry’s report concludes that the violence against Indigenous women and girls is part of a planned genocide and issues “calls for justice.”

When it comes to achieving reconciliation with the country’s Indigenous peoples, Monday’s report like the others before it makes it clear that Canada still has miles and miles to go.

But when it comes to the federal government tasking commissions of inquiry with drafting road maps, this report should probably mark the end of the road.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2019/06/03/murdered-and-missing-women-report-risks-being-ignored-with-its-all-or-nothing-approach.html

John Ivison in the National Post:

….The MMIWG probe was launched by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government as part of its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was a reasonable gesture of reconciliation, charged with symbolism, in the face of truly appalling statistics of violence against Indigenous women. The RCMP has said they made up 16 per cent of all female homicides between 1980 and 2012, despite comprising just 4 per cent of the population.

Victimization rates are not only triple those of non-Indigenous women, they are double those of Indigenous males.

While Indigenous identity does not explain the high victimization rate among native men — analysts suggest the increased presence of other risk factors such as homelessness, drug use or poor mental health are more responsible — Indigenous women are the country’s most vulnerable citizens simply by virtue of being Indigenous and female.

As Trudeau said, this is “not a relic of our past.”

No parent could read Bernice C.’s testimony and not be moved — certainly not this parent.

But the report’s release seems set to stoke division rather than engender good will.

It could have offered a focused blueprint on how to improve the safety of Indigenous women; instead the inquiry commissioners have produced a sprawling report that demands transformational change in all corners of Canadian society.

Despite Trudeau’s assurances that the document will not end up gathering dust, it appears destined to join the growing bibliotheca of mothballed Indigenous reports.

For that, the commissioners have themselves to blame.

They were asked to investigate violence against Indigenous women and to recommend concrete actions to increase their safety.

They chose to make the broadest possible interpretation of that mandate, rather than limit it to the specific issue of murdered and missing women.

The report spends comparatively little time looking at household victimization and spousal violence rates

Their conclusion is that the disproportionate rate of violence against Indigenous women is a direct consequence of hundreds of years of colonialism and discrimination that constitutes a “genocide.”

If it is a genocide, it is not one recognized by retired Lt.-General Romeo Dallaire — and he should know, having seen the real thing up close while commanding the UN mission in Rwanda in 1994. He said Monday that for him, genocide is the deliberate act of killing people of a certain ethnicity.

But the commissioners chose instead to use the interpretation of Polish-Jewish scholar Raphael Lemkin, who deemed that genocide is a co-ordinated plan to destroy the foundations of a national group with the aim of annihilating the group.

Systemic racism, sexism and colonialism has produced “institutional violence,” perpetuated by institutions such as the military, the church, the educational system, the health system, the police, emergency responders and the justice system, the report asserted.

The commissioners called on everyday Canadians to help “decolonization” by becoming strong allies. But even right-thinking people who are appalled by the victimization statistics are likely to recoil at the charge they are complicit in genocide. Canada has added three million new citizens in the past decade. Are newly-arrived Canadians going to feel remorse for a colonial past for which they bear no responsibility? To ask the question is to answer it.

While focusing on “institutional violence,” the report spends comparatively little time looking at household victimization and spousal violence rates that are significantly higher than those for non-Indigenous Canadians.

The inquiry’s time would have been better spent detailing the report’s principle recommendation — the creation of a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women. It calls for equitable access to employment, housing, education, safety and health care but offers few specifics.

In his sober response Monday, Trudeau said his government will develop a national plan to augment its efforts on housing, boil water advisories, education and indigenous languages.

He called the report’s release “an essential day in the history of this country” — but, noticeably, he made no mention of genocide.

Many of the report’s “calls for justice” from government are sensible; others are unworkable.

In the former category, the production of an annual report of ongoing action; the creation of an Indigenous rights ombudsman; the delivery of violence prevention programs; and improved access to major crime units in the north appear to be good ideas.

Among the less pragmatic recommendations are the suggestion to re-open the Constitution to bring it into conformity with the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People; and, the creation of a guaranteed annual liveable income.

Some are borderline satirical — such as the recommendation calling for the promotion of Indigenous women to leadership positions (this government has tried that, with unfortunate consequence).

Others are set to get a frosty reception from the Liberals — for example, the suggestion that in murder cases where there is a pattern of intimate partner violence and abuse, a harsher sentence is awarded. Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Carolyn Bennett has already said she has heard a negative response to the idea because it removes the discretion of judges in similar fashion to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

Most of the recommendations can be debated by reasonable people as part of a public policy discussion.

What is regrettable is the uncompromising claim by chief commissioner Marion Buller that all Canadians, except the country’s Indigenous inhabitants, are party to a “deliberate, race, identity and gender-based genocide.”

The final report offered the chance for closure and for families to put their pain behind them. The world is full of weeping but it does not go backward.

Yet, rather than a new dawn, where Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians could come together to condemn an unacceptable past and commit to build a better future, the opportunity has been eclipsed. Instead, we have the indictment that the bulk of the citizenry is engaged in annihilating its Indigenous minority.

That is not going to help the healing to begin.

Source: John Ivison: MMIW report is devastating, but its uncompromising nature may limit its impact

Lastly, a thoughtful exploration of the issue by:

Il est temps, peut-on lire dans une explication juridique publiée en marge de l’Enquête nationale sur les femmes et les filles autochtones disparues et assassinées, « de regarder la réalité en face : les politiques, actions et inactions coloniales passées et actuelles du Canada à l’égard des peuples autochtones constituent un génocide, lequel, conformément au droit liant le Canada, exige l’imputabilité ». L’Enquête affirme que « les structures et les politiques coloniales persistent aujourd’hui au Canada et qu’elles constituent l’une des causes profondes de la violence ».

Pour certains critiques, cette vision plus large des causes du drame qui touche les femmes décentre la portée du rapport qui leur est consacré en le propulsant dans un procès qui concerne toute l’histoire coloniale du pays. De fait, l’usage même du terme « génocide » est remis en cause.

Mais de l’avis même du rapport, l’Enquête nationale « ne prétend pas démontrer pleinement tous les éléments de la politique génocidaire », faute d’avoir entendu « l’ensemble de la preuve ». Mais elle penche néanmoins de ce côté, au point de ne pas se refuser un usage abondant du terme, tout en répétant que « la détermination formelle de la responsabilité pour génocide doit être déterminée par des organes judiciaires ».

Un abus de langage ?

Est-ce donc un abus de langage ou encore le fait d’une inflation verbale que d’user ainsi du terme « génocide » ?

Oui, dit l’ancien militaire Roméo Dallaire. À l’occasion d’un colloque organisé lundi par l’Institut d’études sur le génocide et les droits humains à l’Université Concordia, l’ancien commandant de la Mission des Nations unies au Rwanda a dénoncé cet usage du mot génocide. À son sens, la condition des femmes autochtones ne tient pas à l’effet d’un génocide, puisqu’il n’y a pas eu de volonté formelle de détruire un groupe humain au nom de leur caractère ethnique. L’ancien militaire n’en dénonce pas moins la condition faite aux Autochtones au Canada.

Sa définition, fondée sur une idée de la destruction physique d’un peuple, est partagée par l’historienne Deborah Lipstadt, professeure en études juives à l’Université Emory. Sans vouloir se prononcer sur la condition historique des Autochtones du Canada, mais tout en étant au fait de leur réalité, l’historienne affirme au Devoirqu’« il doit y avoir une volonté de destruction intentionnelle, une volonté d’éradiquer » pour parler de génocide. « Il faut consulter les documents, écouter les peuples concernés, analyser les décisions gouvernementales ». Le génocide, dit-elle, conduit à une destruction physique ou, à tout le moins, à une tentative de destruction.

Pour l’historien Pierre Anctil de l’Université d’Ottawa, spécialiste de l’histoire juive, l’usage du mot « génocide » en ce cas est étonnant. « Un crime contre un peuple est annoncé et planifié ». Il ne saurait être « le fait d’une série de gestes individuels, qui ne sont pas coordonnés. Je ne pense pas que ça corresponde aux sévices subis par les femmes autochtones. Je ne crois pas que ce soit concerté. Mais c’est par ailleurs une tendance de parler de génocide culturel. Dans ce cas, on rend difficile, voire impossible, la perpétuation d’une culture. Ce peut être une autre forme de génocide ».

Les mésusages

Dans Génocides, usages et mésusages d’un concept(CNRS éditions), un livre qui vient de paraître, l’historien des idées Bernard Bruneteau met en garde contre l’utilisation du terme dans une spirale inflationniste. Cette escalade rhétorique s’inscrit désormais « dans le registre émotionnel et le désir de souffrir par comparaison ».

Il existe des cas de génocides, selon la définition de 1948 des Nations unies, qui sont consacrés par l’alignement de la mémoire du groupe victime, de l’histoire scientifique de l’événement et du droit : le génocide des juifs européens (1941?1945), des Tutsis du Rwanda (1994), des musulmans bosniaques de Srebrenica (juillet 1995), des Khmers rouges à l’encontre des minorités Chams et vietnamiennes (1975?1979). Il existe aussi d’autres cas « en attente de pleine reconnaissance et à ce titre parfois contestés ou relativisés », dit l’historien Bruneteau. Par exemple, l’Arménie (1915?1916), l’Ukraine (1932?1933) ou le Cambodge (1975?1979).

Mais on trouve aussi désormais des cas où « le droit et l’histoire sont en retrait d’une mémoire sociale souvent militante qui entend sensibiliser le monde à la réalité d’un préjudice passé ». Des demandes de reconnaissance pourront sur cette base se multiplier, dit-il, par une extension de l’idée de génocide, « notamment chez les descendants des peuples indigènes victimes de la destruction de leur environnement (aborigènes d’Australie, Maya Achis du Guatemala, Yanomanis d’Amazonie, Achés du Paraguay…), chez les porte-parole autoproclamés des minorités ethniques opprimées aux quatre coins de la planète et chez les descendants de tous les groupes se percevant comme victimes de l’histoire ». En d’autres termes se profile un divorce entre la définition juridique du génocide et la réalité qu’elle est censée résumer, affirme Bernard Bruneteau.

Source: Inflation verbale ou définition élargie?

Jonathan Kay: Why a murderer may have a better future than a #MeToo accused

Valid comments, applicable in many spheres, of the need for nuance and greater understanding:

An all-or-nothing process that can mete out exactly one kind of punishment — a lifetime of disgrace, or nothing at all — provides us with a thrilling kind of moral theatre, in which pure villains such as Harvey Weinstein get their due. But in cases where the facts are less damning, this black-and-white, permanent-ink approach doesn’t reflect the way most ordinary men and women judge — and eventually forgive — one another.

Things could be starting to change, however. In response to allegations that actor Aziz Ansari pressured a date to have an unpleasant sexual encounter, Bari Weiss of The New York Times wrote this week: “I am a proud feminist, (but if) you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you … Aziz Ansari sounds like he was aggressive and selfish and obnoxious that night … And isn’t it enraging that women are socialized to be docile and accommodating and to put men’s desires before their own? Yes. Yes. Yes. But the solution to these problems does not begin with women torching men for failing to understand their ‘nonverbal cues.’ It is for women to be more verbal.”

One advantage of this approach — of looking for shades of grey, and not casting every moment of sexual friction in the language of moral absolutism — is that it may ultimately induce men to take more responsibility for their actions, not less: When any admission of “selfish and obnoxious” behaviour is seen as tantamount to a rape confession, if punishment is seen as an all-or-nothing affair, there is little motivation for a man to publicly come to terms with his behaviour.

Megan Ganz, a sitcom writer who was mistreated last year by an older boss after she rebuffed his come-ons, took a novel approach on social media. Writing on Twitter two weeks ago, she used open-ended language to coax an admission from her former boss — Dan Harmon — that he’d treated her “like garbage,” and that “I was an awful boss and a selfish baby.”

I have no special insight into Harmon’s thinking. But the tone of their Twitter exchange, and a subsequent podcast by Harmon, suggests that he was responding to Ganz’s decision not to threaten her former tormentor with repercussions, or seek to rally antagonists with hash-tags.

“I think of Dan as a work in progress,” Ganz told The New York Times. “That’s how I think of myself, too. It’s dangerous to think of yourself as a hero and someone else as a villain. It gets in the way of empathy. We should be tearing down walls, not putting them up. Women are not different creatures from men. They don’t need to be extra careful around us. They just need to treat us with the same basic respect and dignity that they show to other men.”

Not all women can be expected to adopt this sort of generous attitude. When men are violent, or engage in full-blown criminal assault, no one should encourage them to turn the other cheek. Sometimes, scorched earth is the only way to go.

But for Ganz, the project of reforming male attitudes comes leavened with a sense of understanding and mercy — the same spirit that, I hope, will inform readers of my friend’s forthcoming book about prison life. As morally urgent as the #MeToo project may feel, it’s important to remember that most of us aren’t pure martyrs or pure monsters, but something in between.

Source: Jonathan Kay: Why a murderer may have a better future than a #MeToo accused

How the original sin of white racism is fueling radicalism on the left – and the right | Jon Kay

Jon Kay argues for more centrist voices, correctly noting the excessive space given to extremists on both sides:

Among writers and editors on the left, the problem of centrist reticence arises from the (entirely defensible) idea that the most morally urgent problem in our society is racism. According to the most doctrinaire view, the role of a white writer or editor is to either uncritically boost the voices of blacks and Indigenous people, or simply shut up and get out of the way. One may still witness sparks of intellectual vibrancy among Jewish, Muslim and immigrant writers – who are unburdened by any ancestral or creedal linkage to residential schools. But Canada’s WASP  firmament now exists as a sad wasteland of white guilt. And most of its aging giants, including the Rosedale socialites who once proudly paraded around in Victorian garb on Macdonald’s birthday, are grabbing wildly at the ankles of whatever anti-racist cause happens to be trending strongest on their Facebook feed.

This agonizing over the original sin of white racism also allows sentimental social justice proponents to make excuses for even the most extreme forms of Antifa violence – on the theory that criticizing the savage beating of a right-wing protestor by a left-wing mob would somehow play to the advantage of neo-Nazis.

There are signs, however, that thoughtful people are beginning to find their voice.

It was interesting to observe, for instance, that the ETFO motion received a cold response from government leaders – including Justin Trudeau, who declared that Macdonald’s name would not be removed from any building or program under federal control. Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne said the same thing about her province’s schools (although, true to form, she drenched her statement in much politically-correct bafflegab). Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall asked, in not entirely un-Trumpian tones, “Is it not a short walk between the calls to remove the name of our first prime minister from schools, to the closing of the Lincoln memorial in Washington D.C.?”

These politicians are accountable to the silent majority – including those who don’t have Twitter accounts – which helps explain their position. Yet even the liberal Toronto Star has critiqued the ETFO proposal, publishing at least three articles rejecting the de-Macdonaldification of public institutions. At the very least, I’m just glad that the Star and other outlets seem prepared to discuss the subject rationally – something that would have been impossible last spring, at the high-water mark of Canada 150 social panic.

If things do indeed turn around in Canada, much of the thanks will be owed to Indigenous intellectuals, who (unlike me) have the moral authority to set the terms of debate – just as it is moderate Republicans in the United States who have the sole power to reign in the Make American Great Again extremists who’ve hijacked the GOP. No less an expert than Sen. Murray Sinclair, chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, sensibly declared that tearing down statues of Canadian historical figures would be “counterproductive” to reconciliation efforts. And journalist Robert Jago urged groups such as the EFTO to spend more time on the real problems faced by Indigenous communities, and less on virtue-signalling their progressive attitudes on “flavour-of-the-month” causes.

We need more voices like this. Ashamed of right-wing xenophobia, and intimidated by leftist dogmas, too many Canadians have ceded the marketplace of ideas to the fringes. To speak common sense in this age requires courage, but it is the only way to return intellectual life to sound moorings.

Source: How the original sin of white racism is fueling radicalism on the left – and the right | National Post

What Jonathan Kay Has Wrong About Diversity in Journalism – New Canadian Media

Dan Rowe takes issue with Jon Kay’s explanation of the lack of diversity among journalists:

Canada’s journalism schools, not to mention independent campus newspapers and radio stations, are filled with people from almost every imaginable background—people trying to enter a field where job opportunities seem to be dwindling and salaries are stagnating. This is not because they don’t understand the situation but because they are passionate about what journalism, at its best, can and should do.

There is no reliable data specific to Canada that I’m aware of to support or refute this—there doesn’t seem to be much after former Ryerson professor John Miller’s Diversity Watch project which hasn’t been updated in 10 years—but a perception exists that there is a disparity in who gets jobs. “Journalism schools are pumping out so many visible minorities and plenty of women, and they do not get jobs the way white kids do,” Hazlitt managing editor Scaachi Koul was quoted by J-Source as saying at a recent Massey College Press Club event in Toronto on the generational gap in Canadian journalism.

Meanwhile, Amber Gero, a radio reporter who was laid off from her job at CFRB 1010 last year, effectively made the same point in a mid-March interview on the Toronto Mike podcast. “I’d also like to see more Asian people, more native people, more Hispanic people. Where are they? They’re graduating every year from the media schools so don’t tell me they’re not there and ready to work,” Gero said. “It has to change from the top down.”

Koul and Gero are right. Change will require action on many levels, including journalism schools. Journalism educators need to spend more time ensuring that all students are better prepared for success with a clear-eyed understanding of the challenges they face when they enter the field. Journalism departments need to offer a more diverse faculty, guest speakers and even examples of good works of journalism discussed in class.

Faculty also need to continue to use our resources and job security to agitate for change and highlight the problem—particularly with empirical data and not just anecdotal accounts, such as this one. For decades, journalism professors in the U.S., led by David Weaver at Indiana University, have done extensive surveys of American journalists. Without anything comparable in scope in Canadian journalism, legitimate concerns about diversity in the workplace can be brushed aside with greater ease.

Increasing diversity in workplaces will require leadership, risk-taking and time. It will require creating opportunities for younger, less proven journalists to take on assignments more challenging than what they’ve done before.

There needs to be more stories in this country like the one Ta-Nehisi Coates tells of David Carr. “In the February of 1996, I sent David Carr two poorly conceived college-newspaper articles and a chapbook of black-nationalist poetry,” Coates wrote of his time at the Washington City Paper in The Atlantic after Carr’s death earlier this year. “And David Carr hired me. I can’t even tell you what he saw.”

People in the position to hire and develop journalists need a more proactive approach than the one Kay exhibited in his interview with Brown, where he regretted the lack of diversity, but ultimately threw his hands up in the air. It was as though he—now the editor of a magazine and a longtime managing editor of the comment pages at a national newspaper prior to that—could not have played any greater role in opening up more opportunities for voices that are more reflective of Canada’s demographic makeup.

If Kay’s assertion that there are very few good essayists in the country is true, then why not use his position, resources and experience to develop new voices? Instead, when Brown asked Kay to name some people he would like to add to the Walrus’s roster, two of the three people he mentioned were Conrad Black and Rex Murphy—both of whom are exemplars of the status quo. (Not to mention bad writers.)

Kay’s comments are a perfect example of what Don Heider was writing about: someone who is not necessarily opposed to change but has no good reason, personally, professionally or politically, to act.

Source: What Jonathan Kay Has Wrong About Diversity in Journalism – New Canadian Media

Jonathan Kay: Don’t blame the media for Islamophobia | National Post

Jon Kay’s balanced assessment in response to Haroon Siddiqui’s column (Canada’s news media are contributing to mistrust of Muslims | Toronto Star), including his dismissal of B’nai Brith’s annual antisemitism report (I always find the police reported hate crimes to be more objective, although imperfect and likely understated).

However, Elke Winter has done some interesting parliamentary and media analysis related to citizenship revocation in cases of terror or treason, presented at Metropolis 2016, that showed that despite balanced coverage, the net effect of the examples used, understandably largely Muslim, did contribute to distrust of Canadian Muslims:

Jews and Muslims have more in common than most people think. And not just on the superficial level of pork avoidance, a love of shawarma and (male) circumcision. In Canada, both the Jewish and Muslim communities are periodically riled up with claims that they are being victimized by epidemics of acute anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. These claims are baseless in both cases.

I flipped a coin. Let’s start with the Jews.

Every year, B’nai Brith Canada releases its Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. And every year, B’nai Brith assures us that its numbers prove that Jews are besieged by a “rising tide of anti-Semitism.”

“All one needs to do is look to the comment section of any major news site on a story examining the Israel-Hamas conflict,” declared B’Nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn when the most recent report was published. “Almost without exception, legitimate debate and dialogue devolves to accusations of the murder of children, Zionist plots and the use of anti-Semitic language blaming the ‘Jews.’ ”

But when you examine B’nai Brith’s catalogue of supposedly horrifying anti-Semitic episodes, what you find is a menagerie of demented Internet crackpots and teenage graffiti artists spray-painting backward swastikas on fences. There is no “rising tide of anti-Semitism” in Canada. It only feels that way because whenever some loon in a strip-mall mosque does express a hate-on for Jews, the incident becomes a sensation on social media.

In other cases, the examples of anti-Semitism are padded out with hateful statements that aren’t really about Jews at all — but quite specifically about the Israeli government. The idea that criticizing Israel automatically qualifies as a form of disguised anti-Semitism has become a lazy debating trick.

Based on the scattered anecdotal reports I hear, I’d say that Islamophobia is somewhat more common in Canadian society than anti-Semitism. You rarely hear of some kid named Avi or Mordechai getting mistakenly put on a no-fly list, for instance. And this month, well-heeled spectators came out to a debate in downtown Toronto where the star performer promoted the thesis that Muslim refugees just can’t be trusted not to rape our Judeo-Christian babies. That’s bad. As was last week’s debunked and retracted Halifax newspaper story about little Muslim children plotting global Islamic conquest from the merry-go-round.

Nevertheless, hate-speech watchdogs take things too far when they suggest that the mainstream media are somehow cheerleading Canada’s fringe Muslim-haters.

This month, former Toronto Star columnist and editorial-page editor Haroon Siddiqui told an audience at the city’s Aga Khan Museum that — according to the Star’s summary — “the media have contributed to widespread Islamophobia by conflating Muslim terrorists with all Muslims.”

In his speech, excerpted in the Star, Siddiqui declared: “The biggest culprits have been the National Post and the Postmedia group of newspapers across the country, which now include the Sun chain. Hardly a week goes by without these publications finding something or other wrong with Muslims and Islam. These publications are forever looking for terrorists under every Canadian minaret. They are hunting for any imam or any Muslim who might make some outrageous statement that can be splashed as proof of rampant Muslim militancy or malevolence.”

Siddiqui and I have appeared on media panels together. I like the guy, and have found him to be quite moderate on most issues. But what he’s written here is unfair.

Yes, the media are fascinated with terrorism — because our readers are fascinated by terrorism. Just as they are fascinated with all forms of horrifying violence — including the kind caused by street gangs, natural disasters and Karla Homolka. It’s human nature. We pay attention when things go bang and boom and all bloody-like.

We also pay attention to questions of motive. And since Islamist terrorists from Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and al-Qaida insistently, repeatedly and explicitly tell us that they are committing their slaughter in the name of Islam, we report that, too. When terrorists in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia stop praising Allah as they self-detonate — or, better yet, stop self-detonating altogether — we media types will be the first to report on that phenomenon, as well.

Moreover, it would be nice if Siddiqui might acknowledge that in the last two years, not one but two Canadian governments — Stephen Harper’s Tories and Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois — have been booted out of office in large part because media commentators were disgusted by their Islamophobic fearmongering on the niqab issue. I myself was working at the National Post during the 2014 Quebec election campaign, and personally authored several articles denouncing the xenophobic messaging from PQ hardliners. In both cases, it wasn’t media Islamophobia that held sway at the polls, it was media anti-Islamophobia.

Canadians should be proud that they live in a tolerant country where both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are marginalized and discredited sentiments. Haroon Siddiqui is correct to advocate vigilance against these forms of hatred, but he greatly exaggerates the scope of the problem.

Source: Jonathan Kay: Don’t blame the media for Islamophobia | National Post

What Jonathan Kay Has Wrong About Diversity in Journalism

On diversity (lack thereof) within the media:

In a recent appearance on Jesse Brown’s Canadaland podcast, newly installed Walrus editor Jonathan Kay discussed with Brown the homogeneity of the people writing for that magazine (and other mainstream outlets) in the country. Most of the young writers he meets, Kay said, are “people who grew up in privileged households.” The typical pattern, he added, is that writing is something young people do on their way to law school.

Increasing diversity in workplaces will require leadership, risk-taking and time. It will require creating opportunities for younger, less proven journalists to take on assignments more challenging than what they’ve done before.

Kay or anyone else in a management position who just throws up his hands when confronted with the diversity conundrum should come visit the Etobicoke college campus where I teach—or just about any other journalism school in the country.

Canada’s journalism schools, not to mention independent campus newspapers and radio stations, are filled with people from almost every imaginable background—people trying to enter a field where job opportunities seem to be dwindling and salaries are stagnating. This is not because they don’t understand the situation but because they are passionate about what journalism, at its best, can and should do.

There is no reliable data specific to Canada that I’m aware of to support or refute this—there doesn’t seem to be much after former Ryerson professor John Miller’s Diversity Watch project which hasn’t been updated in 10 years—but a perception exists that there is a disparity in who gets jobs. “Journalism schools are pumping out so many visible minorities and plenty of women, and they do not get jobs the way white kids do,” Hazlitt managing editor Scaachi Koul was quoted by J-Source as saying at a recent Massey College Press Club event in Toronto on the generational gap in Canadian journalism.

…If Kay’s assertion that there are very few good essayists in the country is true, then why not use his position, resources and experience to develop new voices? Instead, when Brown asked Kay to name some people he would like to add to the Walrus’s roster, two of the three people he mentioned were Conrad Black and Rex Murphy—both of whom are exemplars of the status quo. (Not to mention bad writers.)

Kay’s comments are a perfect example of what Don Heider was writing about: someone who is not necessarily opposed to change but has no good reason, personally, professionally or politically, to act.

To give credit where credit is due, The Walrus, with Jon Kay’s support, has been particularly helpful in providing advice to New Canadian Media.

What Jonathan Kay Has Wrong About Diversity in Journalism – New Canadian Media – NCM.