Opinion: Quebec’s religious-symbol bill hearings have gone exactly as François Legault’s CAQ planned

Konrad Yakabuski’s take although I don’t share his conclusion that it made the CAQ proposals appear reasonable:

Eleven years ago this month, Quebec wise men Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor tabled their report on religious accommodation in Canada’s once “priest-ridden province.”

The two intellectual giants chosen by then-premier Jean Charest to extricate his Liberal government from the quagmire in which it found itself – it had been reduced to a slim minority after an election campaign that largely focused on religious accommodation – went to great lengths to insist that secular Quebec was not experiencing a clash of values. The apparent “crisis” involving the demands of religious minorities for recognition was largely, to use a term now in vogue, fake news. Some media organizations, they concluded, had been making mountains out of molehills, creating a false sense of urgency and collective insecurity.

And yet, Prof. Bouchard and Prof. Taylor went on to lay out in 310 dense pages how Quebec was different from the rest of Canada and North America, and how it was incumbent upon the provincial government to lay down the parameters for secularism. Rejecting the Canadian policy of multiculturalism as “poorly adapted to Quebec’s reality,” their report called for legislation establishing “interculturalism” as the model for managing diversity in the province.

”It is in the interests of any community to maintain a minimum of cohesion,” the Bouchard-Taylor report concluded. “For a small nation like Quebec, always preoccupied with its future as a cultural minority, integration represents a condition of its development, indeed its survival.”

The report presented its ideas for how to help an insecure minority – in this case, French-speaking Quebeckers – feel more secure. After spending decades seeking to eliminate the pervasive influence of the Catholic Church in public institutions, they sympathized with the desire of Quebeckers to prevent other religions from taking its place.

It was hence that Prof. Bouchard and Prof. Taylor recommended that state employees exercising “coercive powers” – such as police officers, prison guards, Crown prosecutors and judges – be prohibited from wearing conspicuous religious symbols. It was not a recommendation they made lightly; their report makes clear that such a prohibition would deprive some religious minorities of the ability to exercise certain state functions. But they concluded that it nevertheless constituted the “right balance for Quebec society today.”

It was obvious then that, in implementing such a ban, Quebec would put itself on a collision course with the rest of Canada. Indeed, by 2008, it had already been 18 years since the RCMP first began allowing Sikh officers to wear turbans as part of their official uniform. Whether they intended it to or not, their recommendation soon took on a life of its own, as proponents of Quebec secularism seized on the imprimatur of Bouchard-Taylor to legitimize their cause.

Appearing last week before the National Assembly commission studying Bill 21, Prof. Taylor, now 85, pleaded that he had been “naive” about the monster he helped create in tabling this recommendation. “Just promoting this kind of program starts to provoke incidents of hate,” he insisted, explaining why he no longer supports a recommendation he previously defended.

In Saturday’s Journal de Montréal, Quebec’s most-read newspaper, three columns were devoted to discrediting the McGill University philosopher. One compared him to the washed-up drunk Calvero in Charlie Chaplin’s 1952 film Limelight. “There is only one word to qualify this 180-degree turn – pathetic,” former Parti Québécois minister Joseph Facal wrote.

It might be going too far to say Prof. Taylor had been set up by Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, who has meticulously stage-managed the parliamentary hearings on Bill 21, which end on Thursday. But the distinguished professor did not do himself any favours by effectively likening supporters of the bill that would implement the principal recommendation from his report (while adding teachers into the mix of state employees prohibited from wearing religious symbols) to hatemongers. He played into caricatures of himself.

That’s exactly how Mr. Jolin-Barrette wanted the hearings to unfold. “In the course of the past 15 years, previous governments have not succeeded in translating and implementing the will of the Quebec people to establish a secular framework for the state,” the minister said. “Quebeckers can be proud of this bill because it allows us to turn the page on this issue.”

By giving so much airtime to those who hold extreme opinions – former Liberal senator Céline Hervieux-Payette warned that “behind” the Islamic veil lay genital mutilation and forced marriages, while several intervenors called on the government to extend the religious-symbols ban to all state employees – the hearings aimed to ensure that the Coalition Avenir Québec’s Bill 21 came out looking like a reasonable compromise.

For Mr. Jolin-Barrette and his boss, Premier François Legault, it was mission accomplished.

Source: Opinion: Quebec’s religious-symbol bill hearings have gone exactly as François Legault’s CAQ planned

As Quebec tables religious symbol ban, the rest of Canada should stay zen

Bit of an odd piece by Konrad Yakabuski. Yes, all debates have nuances, yes, historical contexts are important, but Bill 62 is problematic on so many counts.

The other aspect I have always found interesting is just how much of a colony Canada appears to be when it imports these debates from Europe, whether critiques of multiculturalism without acknowledging Canada’s aims at integration and participation of much of the language around laicité from France:

The most popular movie in France this year is a comedy about a Roman Catholic couple with four daughters, each of whom marries a member of a religious or racial minority. When the daughters announce they and their husbands are leaving France – for Algeria, Israel, China and India – their parents wonder if they are being punished by God.

The film’s French title, Qu’est-ce qu’on a encore fait au Bon Dieu?, roughly means: What did we do to deserve this? It is the top-grossing film of 2019 in France, drawing twice as many moviegoers as any Hollywood movie. It has also been doing a brisk box office in Quebec, and sparking plenty of discussion about the state of la mère patrie, as France is known.

The film’s success may lie in the fact that it allows members of the white Catholic French majority to laugh at the prejudices they hold toward newcomers, rather than feeling ashamed of them. The French aren’t racist. They’re just nostalgic for a simpler time when they didn’t have to deal with interracial marriage, Muslim rites or Afghan refugees. But once they get used to them, they’ll come around and everyone will get along famously. Cue the happy ending.

Of course, that day hasn’t yet arrived in France. The country remains deeply divided over how to integrate its fast-growing Muslim population, which continues to feel excluded from mainstream French society. Anti-Semitism has been rising again, prompting thousands of French Jews to leave their country, mostly for Israel, the United States and Canada.

To an outsider, it may seem obvious that the French approach to solving the challenges raised by multiculturalism has been a failure. Instead of fostering integration or promoting what the French call le vivre ensemble (“living together”), bans on the Islamic headscarf in public schools and the burka in public spaces have only served to further stigmatize Muslims.

Yet, I have spent enough time in France to know that plenty of its leading thinkers, few of whom could be accused of racism, support such bans in the name of state secularism. No one, much less any foreigner, is going to persuade them otherwise. Even French President Emmanuel Macron, who is undeniably progressive on most issues involving immigration and multiculturalism, would not dream of repealing these measures.

For better or worse, the French approach to secularism has coloured the political debate over religious accommodation in Quebec. As in France, many Quebec intellectuals believe that any society that declares secularism to be a fundamental value must prohibit religious symbols in public institutions. For many, freedom from religion is as important as freedom of religion.

So, while many commentators in English Canada depict Quebec’s seemingly endless debate over religious accommodation as the work of opportunistic politicians seeking to exploit the cultural insecurities of some francophone Quebeckers, such characterizations fail to capture the complexity of the debate and only contribute to a polarization of opinions on the matter.

Make no mistake, as Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government prepares to table legislation to ban state employees in a position of authority (including teachers) from wearing ostentatious religious symbols, politics is its principal motivation. The CAQ’s conservative and nationalist base is not concerned so much about secularism – it supports maintaining the crucifix in the legislature – as it is with the impact Muslim newcomers are having on the face and customs of their province. Mr. Legault campaigned on a promise to do something about it, even if it means going down the dangerous path of trampling on individual rights in the name of a white francophone majority that seeks to assert its supposed collective right to live in a secularist society.

The CAQ government may be making a fateful mistake by proceeding with a discriminatory and patently unconstitutional legislation. At the very least, it is displaying crass insensitivity in tabling its religious-symbol ban in the wake of the massacre of 50 Muslims at mosques in New Zealand, which revived the pain of the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting.

Yet, those outside the province should refrain from making blanket statements or condemnations. The debate within Quebec is far more nuanced than the rest of Canada seems to understand. Charging racism is the lazy way to go. It perpetuates a situation that only serves the interests of those who like to stir up polemics, rather than foster reconciliation.

As jurist Rim Gtari and sociology professor Rachad Antonius wrote this week in Le Devoir, invoking the recent conviction of an Iranian lawyer who defended women who went veil-less in public: “One cannot reduce the hijab to a simple piece of cloth, the wearing of which is a sign of piety and its interdiction a sign of racism. The historical context removes this restriction from the domain of the violation of rights or from the logic of stereotypes tied to racism.”

Source: As Quebec tables religious symbol ban, the rest of Canada should stay zen

Canada needs an honest debate about birthright citizenship: Konrad Yakabuski

Good balanced piece by Yakabuski ahead of the government’s response to the petition by Steveston—Richmond East MP Peschisolido (Yet another petition on birth tourism).

I am working on an analysis of the numbers based upon hospital financial data for non-residents (includes some other temporary residents and Canadian expatriates) – stayed tuned:

No one was surprised to learn that Donald Trump was wrong when he declared that the United States is “the only country in the world” that grants birthright citizenship. The U.S. President rarely lets the facts get in the way of an opportunity to score political points on the backs of immigrants.

Unsurprisingly, he was also wrong in suggesting he could revoke U.S. birthright citizenship, which is entrenched in the U.S. Constitution, with the simple stroke of his own pen. But on the eve of midterm elections that will determine control of the U.S. Congress, stoking outrage toward illegal immigrants who give birth on American soil is par for the course for Mr. Trump.

Unfortunately for Canada’s Conservatives, who adopted a resolution at their August convention calling for an end to “birth tourism” in this country, Mr. Trump’s outburst now risks tainting our own debate about birthright citizenship. Even before the U.S. President evoked ending birthright citizenship in his country, opponents seized on the passage of the Tory resolution to score points of their own. New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh attacked the “division and hate” peddled by Conservatives. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, accused the Tories of seeking to “strip people born in Canada” of their Canadian passports.

To be clear, any attempt by the Conservatives to scapegoat certain immigrants for political gain should be condemned. But so should Liberal and NDP attempts to tar the Tories with labels they don’t deserve merely for raising concerns about a phenomenon that undermines the integrity of our immigration laws. Birth tourism, the practice of foreign women coming to Canada to have their babies merely to obtain a Canadian passport for their offspring, is by all accounts a real and growing problem. Is it a big enough problem to warrant an end to birthright citizenship here? Unfortunately, we don’t have good enough data to know. Statistics Canada data on births to non-resident mothers provide an incomplete picture and conflict with evidence reported by hospitals.

In the United States, birthright citizenship emerged as a constitutional principle in the wake of the U.S. Civil War to ensure that freed slaves were entitled to all the rights and privileges of white citizens. It is rooted, hence, in that country’s long struggle against slavery and racial discrimination. Any attempt to deprive those born on American soil of U.S. citizenship would not only require a near-impossible constitutional amendment, it would needlessly reopen old wounds.

In Canada, the issue is not nearly as fraught with symbolism as it is south of the border. Birthright citizenship is a feature of our immigration law, not the Constitution, and can be changed with an act of Parliament. What’s more, federal lawyers recently argued that Canadian citizenship could not be claimed by the Canadian-born children of Russian spies, insisting that even this Liberal government believes the principle of birthright citizenship has its limits.

In most cases, foreigners who travel to Canada to give birth are not desperate, nor are their children at risk of becoming stateless, since they would inherit their parents’ citizenship, anyway. Most appear willing to pay hefty non-resident medical fees to have their babies delivered at Canadian hospitals or stay at for-profit “birth houses” catering to Chinese tourists.

Canada would not be the first country to end birthright citizenship, in part to end the practice of birth tourism. Several developed countries, including Australia, have done so in recent decades. As Canada becomes one of the last “rich” countries outside of the United States to grant automatic citizenship to those born on its soil, we should expect the incidence of birth tourism to increase in the future. That suggests we need to be prepared to have this debate, sooner or later.

The August Conservative resolution called for legislation to eliminate birthright citizenship “unless one of the parents of the child born in Canada is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.” Leader Andrew Scheer insisted the policy was aimed strictly at ending “abuse” of our immigration laws, adding: “Conservatives recognize that there are many Canadians who have been born in Canada by parents who have come here to stay and have contributed greatly to our country. I will not end the core policy that facilitates this.”

It would be premature to change our immigration laws before we evaluate alternatives, such as stricter visa requirements, to prevent birth tourism. Ottawa also needs to collect better data to determine the scope of the problem. But we should not let the spectre of Mr. Trump stop us from having a debate about our immigration laws that, if we wait too long, could become inevitable.

Source: Canada needs an honest debate about birthright citizenship: Konrad Yakabuski

Coyne and Yakabuski contrasting views on the CAQ and the notwithstanding clause in relation to religious symbols

Two very different takes, starting with Andrew Coyne:

Be careful what you wish for. Quebec’s election may have signalled a turning away from separatism — the mad, doomed project to wrench apart the country on linguistic and ethnic lines that consumed so much of the province’s energy and wealth over the last 50-odd years. But it has been accompanied by a turning toward other forms of zealotry and intolerance.

The Liberal Party and Parti Québécois may have gone down to their worst defeats in their respective histories, dispatched by voters tired of the ancient existential stalemate and the entrenched/corrupt elites that thrived upon it. But into the vacuum have surged parties peddling other fantasies.

Quebec Solidaire campaigned on a platform that might have been stolen from a student union at one of the less prestigious universities, and probably was. It was rewarded with a doubling of its share of the popular vote and a tripling of its seats in the assembly.

And the “conservative” Coalition Avenir Quebec surged to power on a mix of unfunded tax cuts, warmed-over 1970s-style dirigisme and enriched daycare subsidies. Oh, and beating up on immigrants.

The party will protest at that description, but it is not for nothing that they were feted with victory congratulations from Marine Le Pen, the French far-right leader. The party vows not only to slash immigration to Quebec — this at a time of growing labour shortages, in a province where population aging is a particular concern — but to expel those who fail a test of “values” and French language proficiency after three years.

How it would do so, or where they would be deported to, or under whose constitutional authority are among the many questions raised by this odious proposal, to say nothing of the obvious Charter issues. Party leader Francois Legault struggled to explain it during the campaign. But when a voter in Rimouski asked him whether he would fight for “us” against “these immigrants who are erasing us,” Legault was quick enough to reply: “Bien oui!”

If deporting thousands of immigrants was too much for the other parties, on the other great question of the day, whether members of religiously observant minorities should be allowed to work in the public sector, the parties were more in accord than otherwise.

While the Liberals’ Bill 62 would have banned, in the name of “religious neutrality,” covering one’s face, not only for providers but recipients of public services — those wishing to attend school, say, or ride the bus — the other parties would in some ways have gone further.

The CAQ, for example, proposes to ban anyone in a position of authority — police officers, judges, even teachers — from wearing any “conspicuous” religious symbol at work. The party has been admirably clear about what this means: those whose faith requires them to wear such symbols will not only be precluded from being hired for these jobs, but dismissed from such positions as they currently hold.

So to go with mass expulsions of ethnic minorities, add mass firings of religious minorities: the platform, not of some creepy fringe party, but of the newly elected government of Quebec. If Canadians outside Quebec think they can look the other way at this latest manifestation of the province’s famous distinctness, as they did earlier measures banning the display of English in public, they should think again. For it is about to explode in all of our faces.

Bill 62 was already tied up in the courts, the ban on face coverings suspended while its constitutionality is under review. The CAQ’s more sweeping religious bar, should it be passed into law, will quite certainly meet the same fate. But while the Liberals had never indicated they would do anything but accept the courts’ findings, the CAQ leader has again been clear: it will invoke the notwithstanding clause to override any Charter objections.

Perhaps, in the event, we will be treated to the same circus as surrounded Ontario’s recent flirtation with suspending constitutional rights: squadrons of law professors explaining again that this latest demonstration of the clause’s malevolent potential should not be held against it; elderly veterans of the constitutional wars re-emerging to protest that this was not what they intended, either; people who’ve never liked the Charter pointing out, as if it were either new or relevant, that the Charter override is in fact part of the Charter; and so on.

But in one crucial respect this time cannot fail to be different. The federal government could afford to take a pass on the Ontario fight: the override threat came in response to a particularly wonky court decision, soon set aside by an appeals court, after which it was withdrawn; it was far from clear how far the law in question, redrawing municipal election boundaries, offended against rights, as opposed to common sense; and the use of the clause was opposed by every opposition party — and, polls showed, wildly unpopular.

None of these are likely to apply in the present case. The threat to rights is obvious, and serious; it involves no arcane dispute between different levels of government, but blatant discrimination against vulnerable minorities; and yet it is likely to have the support of at least three of the four parties — and perhaps a majority of the Quebec public.

Can the federal government stay out of this? The immediate response from the prime minister was not encouraging. Invoking the notwithstanding clause, he said, is “not something that should be done lightly.” To suppress “the fundamental rights of Canadians” is “something one should be very careful about.” Stop, or I’ll shout ‘stop’ again.

No, sorry, that will not do. The question he will have to confront, the question confronting us all, is this: do we want to live in a country in which people can be fired from their jobs because of their religious beliefs? In which important positions in the public service are off limits to members of religious minorities? How can we possibly?

Source: Andrew Coyne: Quebec situation is too serious for Trudeau to stay out of notwithstanding debate

In contrast, Konrad Yakabuski is downplays the initial language and says wait to see the actual legislation:

The international headlines referencing Monday’s Quebec election left little to the imagination.

In France, where Quebec politics get more attention than anywhere outside Canada, Le Monde spoke of a “crushing victory by the right.” At the more downmarket Le Parisien, the verdict was even more sensational: Quebec Elects a Nationalist and Anti-immigration Government.

The beleaguered Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s truly anti-immigration Rassemblement national, could hardly believe her luck. She tweeted that Quebeckers had “voted for less immigration,” demonstrating “lucidity and firmness in the face of the migration challenge.”

That is hardly the message premier-designate François Legault hoped his victory would send to the four corners of the globe. But Mr. Legault is learning the hard way that what he says now carries repercussions far beyond the tiny bubble of Quebec politics and can influence his province’s reputation not just in the rest of Canada, but around the world.

For a seasoned politician, Mr. Legault was shockingly undisciplined on the campaign trail. His daily press conferences could go on ad infinitum and Mr. Legault would venture answers to reporters’ questions that a more scripted politician would not touch with a 10-foot pole. It got him into plenty of trouble and, were it not for Quebeckers’ overwhelming desire to punish the Liberals and Parti Québécois alike, it might have cost him the election.

So, it is mind-boggling why Mr. Legault chose to waste his first postvictory news conference on Tuesday by answering a double-hypothetical question about what he would do if courts strike down a law that his government is in no hurry to pass. He should have known that nothing productive could come of his outburst, which left exactly the opposite impression that he intended to make.

While the official program of the Coalition Avenir Québec that Mr. Legault leads favours prohibiting persons in a position of authority from wearing conspicuous religious symbols, passing legislation giving effect to this policy is not high on Mr. Legault’s agenda.

Yet, on Tuesday, the premier-designate was already musing about invoking the notwithstanding clause to override a non-existent court decision that nullifies the currently non-existent legislation, whose shape and form remains a matter of pure conjecture.

This is not to say some form of legislation regulating religious symbols in the public sphere won’t eventually show up on the order paper of a CAQ government. The issue of religious accommodation has dogged successive Quebec governments for more than a decade, as rising Muslim immigration has forced the province to grapple with questions of religious diversity.

Francophone Quebeckers’ idea of state secularism may not correspond with the dictionary definition of the concept, given their desire to grandfather the blatantly Catholic symbols of their past, right up to the crucifix that hangs in the National Assembly. But that doesn’t mean the new CAQ government will be able to indefinitely ignore demands to regulate other religious symbols.

There is a large consensus among Quebec’s political class that the best way to settle the debate once and for all is to follow the recommendations of the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor commission on religious accommodation. The commission, led by sociologist Gérard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor, concluded that “agents of the state” (such as judges, Crown prosecutors and police officers) should be prohibited from wearing religious symbols.

In 2017, Prof. Taylor dropped his support for the proposal, saying that it had been misunderstood. Indeed, the Bouchard-Taylor report explicitly excluded teachers, civil servants and health-care professionals from the list of public employees it said should be prohibited from wearing religious symbols. But that detail seemed to have been lost on many politicians.

The official CAQ policy would include teachers among those banned from wearing the Muslim hijab or Jewish kippa. But whether a CAQ government would legislate to include teachers in the mix remains highly speculative. What’s more, any legislation regulating when and where police officers or judges could or could not wear religious symbols would likely be limited in scope.

On Wednesday, the CAQ MNA who served as the party’s justice critic in opposition moved to clean up the damage Mr. Legault created on Tuesday. Simon Jolin-Barrette insisted that the new government intends to ensure that any future legislation on religious accommodation would stand up in the courts. He added that invoking the notwithstanding clause, while an option, would never be the CAQ’s first course of action.

The CAQ has brought in Carl Vallée, who served as a press secretary to former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, to help the new government find its communications footing. It likely signals tighter messaging and less freelancing by Mr. Legault in the future.

After all, those headlines outside Quebec can be killers.

Social conservatives savour victory, thank immigrants: Konrad Yakabuski

Yakabuski picks up on the Pricker-Ibbitson theory in The Big Shift towards more conservative social policies as a result of more religious and socially conservative new Canadians.

The reality is more nuanced as new Canadians, like most voters, are not single issue candidates; after all, the Liberals won the vast majority of ridings in which visible minorities form the majority despite more liberal social views:

Canada has accepted about five million new immigrants in the past 25 years and they have irreversibly changed our political dynamics.

Twenty-five years ago, Quebec’s place within the Canadian federation was almost all we ever talked about. Today, the Quebec question has faded from the national agenda. All we seem to talk about now is diversity.

For most of us, this means ensuring that more women and minorities are represented in all spheres of Canadian life. We have branded ourselves as an immigrant nation that embraces people of all origins. “Diversity is our strength” has become our national motto, replacing A Mari Usque Ad Mare (from sea to sea) everywhere but on our country’s official coat of arms.

What our political elites have a hard time admitting, however, is that diversity is not a one-way street toward harmonious living – what the French call le vivre-ensemble – but a multilane expressway of competing and often colliding values, norms and ideas. Nowhere has this become as apparent as in the emergence of social conservatism as a political force in Canada.

Doug Ford’s election as the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party would not have been possible without the mobilization of social conservatives. That a strident anti-abortion activist – Tanya Granic Allen – was even on the ballot was proof in itself that this is no longer your father’s PC Party. That Ms. Granic Allen captured almost as much first-ballot support as the centrist Caroline Mulroney, and that her supporters propelled Mr. Ford over the top on the final ballot, was especially sweet for social conservatives.

The latter are now celebrating their new-found political clout — in dozens of languages. Immigration has swelled the ranks of Canada’s social conservatives. Polls shows that Canadian-born voters are less religious than ever, even when they claim to belong to a particular faith. That is not true of immigrants, who often identify more with their religion than their country.

Immigrants have increasingly shaped our communities, our schools and our self-conception as a country. So, it was only a matter of time before they began shaping our politics, too. It is unlikely Ontarians would be debating the province’s new sex-education curriculum at all if only Canadian-born voters were concerned. Resistance to the new curriculum has been strongest among immigrant parents. Some even pulled their kids out of school in protest.

Ground zero for the anti-sex-ed movement is Thorncliffe Park, in Toronto’s inner suburbs, where 70 per cent of the population was born outside Canada and almost 60 per cent of residents speak neither English nor French at home. They’re far more likely to speak Urdu, Farsi and Tagalog.

Campaign Life Coalition, the anti-abortion activist group that has led the fight against Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne’s update to the sex-ed curriculum, publishes some of its literature in 10 languages. The group claims to have signed up 9,000 new PC Party members during the leadership race to support Ms. Granic Allen as their first choice and Mr. Ford as their second.

“New Canadians are extremely important to CLC. It is probably our fastest growth segment in terms of general supporters and activists,” CLC spokesman Jack Fonseca said in an e-mail. “I do believe that their mobilization could shift public policy momentum on life and family issues.”

Not all social conservatives are religious. Chinese immigrants, whom Mr. Fonseca said have accounted for “a lot of growth” in his group’s membership, are among those least likely to practise a religion. But for most social conservatives, religion is the motivating factor in their political mobilization.

More than half a million Muslims immigrated to Canada in the 20 years to 2011, according to Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey. The 2016 census showed that Canada accepted more than 150,000 immigrants from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria— all Muslim-majority countries – between 2011 and 2016. Tens of thousands more came from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

Almost 200,000 Filipino immigrants came to Canada in the five years to 2016, replenishing the pews of the country’s Catholic churches. As with most Canadian Muslims, these Filipino newcomers take their faith ultraseriously.

A 2016 Environics poll showed Canadian Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2015. But that was likely a result of the uproar surrounding Conservative attempts to ban the niqab at citizenship ceremonies and the party’s pro-Israel foreign policy. The same poll found that, among Canadian Muslims, “religious identity and practice are important and growing, in contrast to the broader secularizing trend in Canada.”

How long can these two trends co-exist without colliding? Doug Ford’s leadership win may just have given us the answer.

via Social conservatives savour victory, thank immigrants – The Globe and Mail

One year after mosque massacre, Quebec still in denial about event that traumatized province: Konrad Yakabuski

Good commentary:

On the first anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting, Quebec is still working through its grief. While those directly affected by the tragedy are still coming to terms with their own loss, much of Quebec remains in denial about the event that traumatized the entire province.

That is why the first anniversary of the Jan. 29 massacre of six innocent Muslims will not be deemed a National Day of Remembrance and Action against Islamophobia. And even many of those who first proposed the idea agree that it’s probably better that way.

“I’m disappointed,” Imam Hassan Guillet told Le Devoir with respect to the Quebec government’s rejection of the proposal put forward by the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “But if it is adopted [amid] discord, quibbling and bitterness, I prefer that it not be adopted.”

That discord and bitterness should prevail in the place of generosity and compassion is not that surprising. While the past year has witnessed thousands of acts of kindness on the part of non-Muslim Quebeckers toward their Muslim brothers and sisters, the shooting thrust into the open a debate that many feared Quebec was not ready to have. They turned out to be right.

Before tempers rose over the proposal for a National Day against Islamophobia, there were flare-ups over proposed government hearings into systemic discrimination and racism, a municipal referendum on a Muslim cemetery near Quebec City and, most bitterly, Bill 62. The latter, adopted last fall, forbids face coverings when receiving or providing public services in the province.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has spent the past year walking on egg shells. His initial reflexes have generally been the right ones, embodying a generosity of spirit that should do Quebeckers proud. But the Liberal Premier struggles with the identity issues that remain the main currency politics in Quebec. The opposition Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec have managed to portray any gesture toward religious minorities as a sign of weakness, as if the task of combatting prejudice and defending minority rights doesn’t concern all Quebeckers.

Hence, Mr. Couillard must preface any discussion on the topic with a disclaimer. “I repeat, Quebec is not any more racist or different than any other society and we face the same challenges as all societies that have to manage diversity,” the Premier declared last week as he explained why his government would not support the proposal for a day against Islamophobia.

“It’s preferable to mobilize around a day or week of action against racism and discrimination of all kinds, rather than single out one,” he said. “One kind of racism is not worse than another.”

It’s true that Quebec is hardly alone in grappling with how to address discrimination toward Muslims. The debate last year over a House of Commons motion condemning Islamophobia demonstrated the degree to which the issue stirs passions across the country. And almost no European country has avoided the ugliness of a far-right backlash against Muslim immigration.

Still, it is not accusing Quebec of being any more racist than anywhere else to suggest that conflicts involving the province’s Muslim population suffer from the added strain of Quebeckers’ own self-perception as a threatened minority within Canada. Not only does this Québécois minority in Canada speak French, it has embraced a particular brand of secularism that makes room for public manifestations and symbols of cultural Catholicism, but draws the line there.

This creates a clash of cultures that has become increasingly difficult to resolve as newcomers seek to practise their religion in accordance with their constitutional rights, while a culturally Catholic majority worries about a return to the bad old days when religious authorities ruled their parents’ and grandparents’ lives.

The conflict is least visible in Montreal, where diversity is the norm, mixed marriages are common and hijabs, turbans and kippahs are as unremarkable as tuques in winter. But Montreal is not Quebec and Muslim congregations can now be found in more than a dozen smaller communities, from Shawinigan to Rimouski, and from Mascouche to Saint-Hyacinthe. These new neighbours are changing the identities of their communities – for the better, I would argue.

But they are easy prey for the haters. They might once have been easy to ignore. But they have found validation in the echo chamber created by social media and trash-radio hosts. The Quebec City shooting only seems to have emboldened them. The more Muslims seek to assert their rights, the more they push back.

How many anniversaries of Jan. 29 need to pass before Quebec faces up to them?

via One year after mosque massacre, Quebec still in denial about event that traumatized province – The Globe and Mail

Canadian think tanks have a problem with transparency on funding: Yakabuski

Agree that there is an issue here. Beyond the issue of funding, some think tanks provide more nuanced analysis (e.g., Conference Board) than others (e.g., Fraser Institute):

Between 2000 and 2015, representatives from Canada’s 10 leading think tanks appeared at least 216 times before parliamentary committees and were cited in the Canadian media almost 60,000 times. It gave them and their research priceless exposure and influence in shaping government policy.

But at what price to Canadian democracy?

There is little doubt that the research conducted by Canadian think tanks often enriches public-policy debates. While they claim to be independent, however, most think tanks rely on funding from wealthy benefactors, corporations, unions or lobby groups seeking to push their own causes.

Yet, few Canadian think tanks will tell you who exactly is funding them, or, if they do, how much they get from such benefactors. Indeed, think tanks here lag well behind their peers in the United States and Britain in providing detailed disclosure on their sources of funding. That’s according to the first-ever report on Canadian think tank transparency by Transparify, a non-profit initiative that has been scrutinizing these organizations in other countries since 2014.

“This presents a clear danger to Canadian democracy,” Transparify executive director Hans Gutbrod says of the spotty disclosure standards at Canadian think tanks. “At their best, think tanks are capable of strengthening public debate, developing policy solutions and highlighting little-discussed problems. However, they can also distort public discourse.”

Just ask Donald Abelson, a political-science professor at the University of Western Ontario, whose 2016 book Northern Lights examines the policy-making role think thanks play in Canada.

“Although those who labour at think tanks often claim to serve the public interest, they do not represent parliamentary ridings or congressional districts, nor do their names appear on ballots,” writes Prof. Abelson, who worked on the Transparify report set to be released on Tuesday. “They are policy experts who interact regularly with policy-makers and the public for the purpose of shaping public opinion and public policy in ways that satisfy their institutional interests and those of their generous benefactor.”

The Transparify report, an advance copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, reveals that the most active and influential Canadian think tanks provide little or no disclosure about their funding. Transparify ranked the Conference Board of Canada, the Fraser Institute and the Pembina Institute as “highly opaque.” The Conference Board and Pembina were awarded zero out of five stars, while the Fraser Institute earned a single star.

That contrasts with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, which received five stars and was deemed “highly transparent” by Transparify. CIGI was set up in 2001 with a $30-million endowment from BlackBerry founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis and matching funding from Ontario and federal governments. That makes it unique in that most think tanks do not accept or receive public funding. But at least CIGI is upfront about where it gets its money.

There is hope that others will follow. A few of the top 10 Canadian think tanks (based on parliamentary committee appearances and media citations) moved to improve their disclosure between the time Transparify initially contacted them in April and completed compiling its data in September. In April, the average transparency score among the top 10 was a miserable 1.5 stars. But by September, the average rating had risen to 2.4 stars. To earn a two-star rating, think tanks must at a minimum disclose a list of their largest donors, but not necessarily the amounts given.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, for instance, got two stars from Transparify. But the think tank has committed to disclosing its funding to a four-star standard by 2019. To meet that standard, it would need to disclose the names of all donors who provided at least $5,000 (U.S.), or about $6,400 (Canadian), and the broad amount given by each.

Even so, there is no way for Transparify or anyone else to determine whether think tanks that appear to be highly transparent really are. The International Institute for Strategic Studies had been rated “broadly transparent” in Transparify’s 2016 report on British think tanks. But Bahrain Watch, a group that promotes democracy in the Middle Eastern kingdom, subsequently obtained documents showing the IISS had received £25-million ($44-million) from the Bahraini royal family that the think tank had not disclosed.

That led Transparify to create an entirely new category. IISS now gets a “deceptive” rating and zero stars from Transparify.

So, the bottom line for Canadians looking for policy guidance from think tanks? Caveat emptor.

via Canadian think tanks have a problem with transparency on funding – The Globe and Mail

La gauche religieuse n’existe pas: Yakabuski

Good piece by Yakabuski on the Canadian centre left consensus on multiculturalism:

Bref, la chef du Bloc québécois, Martine Ouellet, se trompe de cible quand elle se dit inquiète de la montée de la gauche religieuse. Il n’y a tout simplement pas de gauche religieuse au Canada. La gauche canadienne est multiculturaliste, point. Même ceux qui ne l’appuient pas voient dans la candidature de M. Singh l’incarnation même de la modernité canadienne.

C’est ainsi que Justin Trudeau a pu dire au New York Times, en 2015, que le Canada serait le premier État postnational sans que l’opposition monte aux barricades. Les propos du premier ministre témoignaient de l’évolution de l’identité canadienne depuis l’instauration de la politique officielle de multiculturalisme et de la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés par son père Pierre Trudeau. Finie l’époque où les Canadiens angoissaient devant la faiblesse de leur identité face à la menace américaine. Si le Canada anglais s’est donné un projet de société, c’est celui de créer un nouveau modèle d’appartenance dont le monde entier pourrait s’inspirer. Selon l’ancienne gouverneure générale Adrienne Clarkson, elle-même réfugiée, le Canada ne serait rien de moins qu’une « société expérimentale ».

Bien sûr, la diversité comme projet de société n’emballe pas tous les Canadiens. Mais ses critiques ne se trouvent pas à gauche. Et même le nouveau chef du Parti conservateur, Andrew Scheer, ne se presse pas de s’associer à leur cause, ayant évincé sa rivale à la course au leadership Kellie Leitch du cabinet conservateur fantôme. L’opposition des candidats à la chefferie néodémocrate au projet de loi no 62 du gouvernement du Québec, interdisant le port du niqab lors de la prestation ou de la réception de services publics à des fins de sécurité, s’inscrit dans une philosophie d’inclusion où les accommodements sont devenus la norme dans une société multireligieuse. Si la plupart des Canadiens ne voient pas dans ces accommodements une menace à la laïcité de l’État, c’est parce qu’ils ont été conditionnés à croire que la même Constitution qui protège les droits des personnes croyantes protège aussi tous les Canadiens contre des gouvernements qui voudraient adopter des lois au nom de la religion. En quoi M. Singh, qui n’a d’ailleurs jamais manifesté un quelconque désir d’imposer sa religion aux autres, serait-il différent d’un catholique pratiquant à la tête du pays ?

Les Québécois ont peut-être une autre idée de la laïcité, influencée par leur histoire de catholicisme oppressant et par le républicanisme français. Mais de là à disqualifier des leaders politiques à cause de leur religion, il y a une marge.

Source: La gauche religieuse n’existe pas | Le Devoir

Yes, the Quebec ‘language police’ does serve a purpose: Konrad Yakabuski

Good balanced commentary:

In 2013, Quebec’s language-enforcement agency made a global fool of itself by attempting to crack down on a Montreal restaurant’s failure to translate the names of well-known Italian food items on its menu into French. Thus was born Pastagate, which was so embarrassing that it forced the normally hardline (on language) Parti Québécois government of the moment to rein in the Office québécois de la langue française. The head of the OQLF even lost her job.

Since then, the agency charged with promoting French and applying the dispositions of the province’s 40-year-old Charter of the French Language, otherwise known as Bill 101, has kept a low profile. The former PQ government freed it of the obligation of having to investigate every complaint it receives, allowing the agency to use its judgment and, hence, avoid future Pastagates to the best of its ability. This rankles some French purists who think the agency, often referred to derisively by anglophones as the Quebec language police, has been neutered.

The news this week that the OQLF will no longer “systematically” reject the use of widely accepted English terms – forcing businesses to use a French alternative proposed by the OQLF on signage, in advertisements or in the workplace – won’t make it any new friends among those who think that opening the door even a crack to les anglicismes is inviting trouble. Purists argue it is the OQLF’s job to counter the use of English terms in Quebec French, not countenance it.

Indeed, it was not that long ago that Quebec French was saturated with English terms simply because the local parlance contained no handy alternative. Francophone Quebeckers would trek to their local Canadian Tire to pick up des spark plug, des wiper or un block heater. Before the advent of official bilingualism federally and Bill 101 in Quebec, market forces were such that North American manufacturers and retailers had no incentive to come up with French names for their products.

The OQLF’s work to come up with French terms was once described by one former head of the agency as “an enterprise of decolonization.” That may be a bit overdramatic. But it did allow francophone Quebeckers, especially unilingual ones, to name their reality with words they actually understood.

It’s easy for anglophones to have a blasé attitude toward the introduction of the odd French word into English. They might feel differently if they were confronted with French terms everywhere they turned, if they had to use French expressions to describe everyday occurrences in their lives, because no English ones existed.

But in a world where English is the lingua franca, that’s not a problem anglophones generally face. English tends to get the naming rights to every new scientific discovery, invention or social trend. It’s not because English is a particularly inventive language. It’s just the globe’s dominant one. But who knows? With China’s rise, that may change.

The OQLF’s move to adopt new criteria for determining whether it is acceptable to use a so-called anglicism is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that certain French alternatives will never take hold. Grilled cheese is so ubiquitous, and so universally understood, that it is senseless to force restaurants to replace it with sandwich au fromage fondant on their menus. Besides, that’s precisely the kind of overkill that subjects the OQLF to ridicule.

It’s much better for the OQLF to focus its scarce resources on creating French neologisms for the hundreds of English technical terms that are introduced every year, particularly in the high-technology sector. That is the OQLF’s main 21st-century challenge.

Canada accounts for only 7.2 million of the world’s 220 million francophones – though that latter figure includes so-called partial French-speakers, largely in Africa. The point is that, just as British and Canadian English differ in many ways (what we call a truck they call a lorry), Quebec French differs from the French spoken on other continents. The OQLF has been a leader in modernizing the French language and the French themselves have taken note.

“To remain alive, a language must be able to express the modern world in all its diversity and complexity. Each year, thousands of new notions and realities appear that must be understood and named,” notes the mission statement of France’s Commission d’enrichissement de la langue française, which was created in 1996 and modelled after the OQLF. “The creation of French terms to name today’s realities is a necessity.”

Source: Yes, the Quebec ‘language police’ does serve a purpose – The Globe and Mail

France and Britain should stop the blame game over integration: Yakabuski

In other words, praise for the Canadian model of civic integration, based on reasonably coherent immigration, settlement, citizenship and multiculturalism policies and programs:

The truth is that neither the French nor British model of integration has been a success. But neither model in itself is to blame for the radicalization of young Muslim men, and some women, that has occurred within each country’s borders. Ethnic minorities face systemic racism in both France and Britain. These young men often become radicalized not because they are Muslims, then, but in reaction to the racism of which they, their friends and their families are victims. I’m not suggesting this is universally the case. There are radical imams in both countries who actively seek out vulnerable young minds to warp.

British writer Kenan Malik, the author of Multiculturalism and Its Discontents, argued in The Guardian in the wake of the November, 2015, terrorist attack in Paris that killed 130 that an ideal integration policy would “marry the beneficial aspects of [the French and British] approaches – celebrating diversity while treating everyone as citizens, rather than as simply belonging to particular communities. In practice, though, Britain and France have both institutionalized the more damaging features – Britain placing minorities into ethnic and cultural boxes, France attempting to create a common identity by treating those of North African origin as the Other.”

France and Britain have both experienced repeated attacks since, with each country focusing far more in the aftermath on strengthening security measures and identifying potential terrorists than on addressing the alienation of young minorities in their midst. Instead of criticizing the other’s model of integration, France and Britain would each be better off fixing the flaws in their own.

Source: France and Britain should stop the blame game over integration – The Globe and Mail