Yakabuski: Amid Quebec labour crunch, Legault spurns business demands for more immigrants

A natural experiment: as the rest of Canada increases immigration, Quebec adapts a more restrictive approach.

Will be interesting to contrast Quebec economic outcomes with those of the other provinces, particularly with respect to productivity and income, over the coming years:

Generations of Quebeckers were once forced to leave home for work, fleeing to Ontario or New England for a job, as their native province grappled with a chronic unemployment problem.

Until the turn of the century, Quebec’s jobless rate consistently exceeded the Canadian average by several percentage points. The spread with Ontario stood at as much as five points in the 1980s and never shrank below three points before 2000.

That was then. A falling birth rate, a fast-aging population and lower immigration levels than in the rest of Canada have since combined to make Quebec’s labour market the country’s second tightest after British Columbia.

Quebec’s unemployment rate stood at 5.6 per cent in October, compared with 7 per cent in Ontario and 6.7 per cent nationally. At 3.8 per cent, the unemployment rate in Quebec City was the lowest of any census metropolitan area in the country.

Premier François Legault considers this a nice problem to have.

“You have to admit it’s good news for [Quebec’s] 4.5 million workers because it puts upward pressure – and we’ve seen it for the past three years – on salaries,” the Premier said last week. “I’d rather have a lack of workers than a lack of jobs.”

Quebec businesses do not see it that way, however. They describe an acute labour shortage – there are currently more than 220,000 job vacancies in the province – as the biggest obstacle to economic growth. The province’s manufacturers have foregone $18-billion in revenues in the past two years because they could not find enough workers to fill orders. Many businesses are closing for lack of employees.

Last week, five of Quebec’s main business groups joined with the Union des municipalités du Québec to demand Mr. Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government boost immigration levels to prevent the current labour shortage from getting even worse. In addition to working with the federal government to accelerate the application process for temporary foreign workers, the groups want the province to permanently boost the number of permanent residents it accepts each year and do more to get newcomers to settle outside the greater Montreal area to more remote regions where the worker shortage has reached crisis levels.

Karl Blackburn, the head of the province’s main employers’ group, le Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), called the province’s labour shortage “an economic catastrophe,” and called on Finance Minister Eric Girard to introduce new measures to address the labour crunch in next week’s fall economic statement.

Mr. Legault, who was elected in 2018 on a signature promise to temporarily cut immigration levels, continues to push back against such demands. The Premier emphasized automation, job training and digitization last week while outlining his government’s strategy for easing the labour shortage and boosting productivity.

Mr. Legault has made closing the wealth gap between his province and Ontario – Quebec’s per-capita gross domestic product remains about 13 per cent lower – his government’s top economic priority. As a result, he has insisted that bringing in more immigrants, who typically start off making less than the average full-time salary of $56,000, would only make this task harder.

“Immigration might be part of the solution, but we have to realize that, at 50,000 [immigrants] a year, we have reached our capacity for integration,” Mr. Legault said. “If we want the next generations to continue speaking French, there is a limit to the number of immigrants we can accept.”

Under a decades-old agreement with Ottawa, Quebec establishes its own immigration targets and selects economic immigrants. The federal government is responsible for choosing newcomers who come to the province as refugees or under the family reunification program.

Mr. Legault’s government recently announced it would seek to bring in 70,000 immigrants in 2022. But the one-time boost would only to make up for a shortfall of newcomers experienced in 2020 and this year because of the pandemic. Despite the one-shot increase, Quebec will continue to receive far fewer immigrants relative to its population than Ontario, B.C. and Alberta.

To keep pace with the rest of the country, Quebec, which accounts for 22.5 per cent of the Canadian population, would need to increase the number of immigrants it accepts to 90,000 starting this year and increase the level annually after that.

In 2019, Quebec accepted only 40,565 immigrants, or 11.9 per cent of the 341,180 permanent residents admitted to Canada that year. Its share is set to rise temporarily to 17 per cent next year, but will fall below 12 per cent again starting in 2023 as Ottawa increases the national immigration target to 421,000.

Beyond the current labour crunch, the CAQ’s immigration policy will leave the province even less well equipped to face the budgetary pressures caused by an increasingly aging population. At 19.7 per cent, the proportion of Quebeckers over the age of 65 exceeded the national average of 18 per cent in 2020. Quebec also has fewer residents under the age of 20 than the rest of Canada, while the size of its working-aged population has been shrinking.

Mr. Legault, who is up for re-election in 2022, continues to portray immigration as a threat to Quebec’s distinct culture. But his policies are damaging his province’s economic prospects and reducing its political influence within Canada. How can that be good for Quebec’s cultural survival?

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-amid-quebec-labour-crunch-legault-spurns-business-demands-for-more/

Yakabuski: Quebec and France join forces against cancel culture

Yakabuski points out the irony given the cancel culture aspects of their policies and the intolerance of Bill 21:

When France’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, learned that a francophone Ontario school board had held a book-burning ceremony involving titles banned because of their negative portrayal of Indigenous people, he contacted his Quebec counterpart to commiserate.

Mr. Blanquer, who has been on a mission to turn back the tide of “cancel culture” on French university campuses, was incredulous at the news – which made the pages of the prestigious Paris-based Le Monde – of the Providence school board’s “flame purification” ceremony.

Included among the books incinerated during the ceremony – held in 2019, but which only came to light last month in a Radio-Canada report – were titles from the cartoon collections Tintin, Lucky Luke and Asterix, beloved by generations of young francophones on both sides of the Atlantic.

The result of Mr. Blanquer’s commiserating with Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge was a joint op-ed, published last week in Quebec and France, denouncing the “pernicious influence of a culture of intolerance and erasure” embodied by the book-burning.

“We have a duty to prepare our youth to exercise active, respectful and enlightened citizenship. A citizenship that allows for debate, the opinions of others, the confrontation of ideas and the questioning of all our beliefs,” Mr. Blanquer and Mr. Roberge wrote. “That is why we affirm with force and conviction that public schools, the first line of defence against ignorance and darkness, must be the preferred location for the construction of a common civic project.”

The op-ed was just Mr. Roberge’s opening salvo in his own crusade against wokeism in Quebec public schools. Two days later, the Coalition Avenir Québec minister announced his government would introduce a new “Quebec culture and citizenship” (QCC) course to replace the “ethics and religious culture” (ERC) curriculum now taught in public schools.

The current ERC course was adopted by former premier Jean Charest’s Liberal government in 2008, a decade after Quebec replaced its Catholic and Protestant school boards with linguistic ones. The ERC, which replaced the catechism courses that had long been taught in French Catholic schools, aimed to familiarize primary and secondary school students with the panoply of religions practised in Quebec. But critics have long argued that the course is an affront to modern Quebec’s secularist values.

That is an exaggeration. Even the children of non-believers should understand the influence of religion in the lives of most people, and the role the Catholic faith played in shaping modern Quebec. But the anti-clericalism espoused by francophone intellectuals since the Quiet Revolution has hardened attitudes toward the separation of church and state in Quebec.

The Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ), an organization dedicated to the “total secularization of the state and public institutions in Quebec,” called the abolition of the ERC course “a breath of fresh air.” The ERC, the MLQ said, has been “an aberration and a disaster on the social level.”

Given its populist leanings, the CAQ government to which Mr. Roberge belongs is not particularly popular in Quebec intellectual circles. But Quebec nationalists and intellectuals have found common ground when it comes to secularism.

Both support Bill 21, though for different reasons. Nationalists see the law that prohibits some public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols as an assertion of Quebeckers’ distinct identity in the face of the multicultural ethos that prevails elsewhere in Canada. Intellectuals see it as protection against the incursion of religion in the public square, which they argue should be a faith-free zone.

The CAQ government’s move to replace the ERC with a new Quebec culture and citizenship course is similarly welcomed by nationalists as a blow to multiculturalism and an affirmation of Quebec’s dominant francophone identity. In a video promoting the new curriculum, Premier François Legault says the new course will lead to “a prouder Quebec.”

Mr. Legault’s re-election in 2022 is about as close as you can get to a sure thing in Canadian politics. And his plan to push ahead with the new course will certainly not hurt his chances.

Still, there is something deeply disturbing about the CAQ’s exploitation of Quebeckers’ cultural insecurity for political gain. It is one thing to express concern about the pernicious effects of cancel culture on democratic debate or the excesses of a multiculturalism that denies the existence of a core national identity. But it is quite another to depict critics of Bill 21 and the new citizenship course as an existential threat to the survival of the Quebec way of life, as Mr. Legault and his ministers do.

It almost makes you wonder whether Mr. Roberge even read his own op-ed.

Source: Opinion: Quebec and France join forces against cancel culture

Bloc leader’s threat to unleash ‘fires of hell’ over Quebec seat proposal might just backfire

Hard to have much sympathy for the “outrage” given the demographic decline reflects in part Quebec’s decision to admit fewer immigrants than elsewhere in Canada (despite or because they manage economic immigration) and the xenophobic Bill 21 and the weakening of bilingualism in Bill 96. Commentaries, starting with Konrad Yakabuski highlighting the consequences of lower immigration levels, and Randy Boswell’s more sympathetic take:
Le premier ministre de l’Ontario, Doug Ford, a suscité un tollé cette semaine lorsqu’il a livré un avertissement à tous ceux qui espèrent immigrer dans sa province, laquelle fait face à un manque criant de travailleurs puisque plus de 290 000 postes demeurent vacants. « Si vous pensez que vous pouvez venir ici pour toucher le B.S. et rester assis à la maison, ça n’arrivera pas », a martelé M. Ford lors d’un point de presse, se faisant immédiatement accuser d’exprimer tout haut ce que de nombreux Ontariens pensent tout bas. Si M. Ford a refusé de s’excuser pour ses propos, il s’est néanmoins empressé de se déclarer « pro-immigration » et de se vanter d’accueillir des immigrants de partout dans le monde au « Ford Fest », le barbecue estival que sa famille organise chaque année dans un quartier très multiculturel à Toronto. En effet, le gouvernement conservateur de M. Ford appuie sans réserve la hausse des seuils d’immigration annoncée l’an dernier par Ottawa, qui vise à accueillir 401 000 résidents permanents au pays en 2021, soit une augmentation de 18 % par rapport à 2019. Si le nombre d’immigrants a chuté en 2020 en raison de la pandémie, tombant à 184 000, le gouvernement fédéral presse le pas pour atteindre ses objectifs en matière d’immigration pour les années 2021, 2022 et 2023. En tout, ce sont plus de 1,2 million de nouveaux résidents permanents que le Canada compte accueillir pendant cette période, dépassant ainsi un ancien record qui date du début du XXe siècle. À lui seul, l’Ontario devrait accueillir plus de 540 000 nouveaux arrivants, ce qui pousserait sa population au-delà du seuil des 15 millions d’habitants. La politique d’immigration du Québec Quoi qu’on pense de la politique d’immigration du Québec, son résultat à long terme mènera vers une baisse du poids démographique de la province dans la fédération canadienne. La province compte accueillir entre 51 500 et 54 500 nouveaux immigrants cette année, si on inclut le « rattrapage » de 7000 nouveaux arrivants que le gouvernement caquiste prévoit d’effectuer après la baisse de 2020 liée à la fermeture des frontières. En 2019, durant la première année du gouvernement de François Legault, le Québec a reçu 40 565 nouveaux résidents permanents, ou seulement 11,89 % du total canadien. L’Alberta, qui compte la moitié moins d’habitants que le Québec, en a reçu 43 691, ou 12,81 % du total. L’Ontario a accueilli 153 395 nouveaux arrivants, ou 45 % des 341 000 nouveaux résidents permanents acceptés en 2019. Le Québec ne recevait déjà pas sa part d’immigrants en fonction de sa population au sein de la fédération canadienne avant l’arrivée de M. Legault au pouvoir. En 2016, quand le Québec comptait pour environ 23 % de la population canadienne, il avait reçu 18 % des immigrants arrivés au pays au cours de cette année-là. Il n’est pas impossible que ce taux atteigne les 10 % dans les prochaines années. En effet, les voix s’élèvent dans le reste du pays pour qu’Ottawa augmente ses seuils annuels d’immigration à 450 000 ou à 500 000 nouveaux arrivants. Un groupe d’influents Canadiens, réunis sous la bannière de l’Initiative du siècle, préconise une politique d’immigration visant à hausser la population canadienne à 100 millions de personnes en l’an 2100 afin de s’assurer de la prospérité nécessaire au maintien des programmes sociaux et d’augmenter l’influence du Canada sur la scène internationale. Le groupe, présidé par l’ancien chef de la direction du fonds d’investissement du Régime de pensions du Canada, Mark Wiseman, compte parmi ses membres le p.-d.g. du Conseil canadien des affaires, Goldy Hyder, et Dominique Barton, l’actuel ambassadeur du Canada en Chine. Il jouit aussi de l’appui de l’ancien premier ministre Brian Mulroney. Or, dans son discours inaugural prononcé cette semaine à l’Assemblée nationale, M. Legault a réaffirmé son refus aux « voix qui réclament un nombre toujours plus élevé d’immigrants ». Le Québec reçoit déjà plus d’immigrants que la plupart des pays développés, a-t-il dit, et il n’est pas question qu’il emboîte le pas au reste du pays. « Le Québec ne peut pas avoir le même modèle d’immigration que celui du Canada anglais. La survie du français exige une approche différente. » Ce choix n’est pas sans conséquences. Le directeur des élections du Canada, Stéphane Perreault, a annoncé la semaine dernière que le Québec doit perdre un siège à la Chambre des communes dès 2024, ce qui porterait le nombre de ses sièges à 77, selon une nouvelle répartition des sièges basée sur la formule de représentation prévue dans la Constitution. Les réactions à cette annonce n’ont pas tardé, le chef du Bloc québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, et la ministre caquiste des Relations canadiennes, Sonia LeBel, s’étant tous deux insurgés contre toute tentative de diminuer le poids du Québec au Parlement fédéral. Vendredi, M. Legault a lui-même sommé M. Trudeau de « préserver le poids de la nation québécoise à la Chambre des communes ». Toutefois, sans modification constitutionnelle, il semble inévitable que le Québec voie sa proportion de sièges à la Chambre des communes diminuer de façon importante au cours des prochaines décennies. Cette proportion est déjà tombée de 36 % des sièges en 1867 à 23 % en 2011. Selon la proposition de M. Perrault, elle glisserait encore à 22,5 %. Qu’en sera-t-il dans dix ans, alors que le reste du Canada s’apprête à accueillir de plus en plus d’immigrants pendant que le Québec referme davantage ses portes ?
Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/chroniques/642273/chronique-la-marginalisation?utm_source=infolettre-2021-10-23&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne
A proposed rejigging of Canada’s electoral map could see Quebec lose one of its seats in the House of Commons by 2024 while Alberta gains three and Ontario and B.C. each gain one.
The changes would increase the total number of federal ridings to 342 from 338. There are reasonable arguments for and against implementing the exact changes recommended by Elections Canada. But Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet’s opening salvo in the debate — that the BQ would “unleash the fires of hell” if his province’s seat count is dropped to 77 from 78 — is the wrong way to begin what needs to be a calm, cool conversation about updating the country’s political geography. How are we supposed to respond to Blanchet’s Trumpian explosion of outrage? Can thoughtful discussion follow a toddler’s tantrum?
Injecting apocalyptic rhetoric into a decision-making process that must be driven by the fundamental democratic principle of representation by population — and basic math — is precisely how to inflame prejudices, fuel interprovincial pettiness and polarize the nation. Blanchet, of course, knows this. Driving wedges wherever possible between Quebec and the rest of Canada is crucial, by definition, to the political project of any diehard separatist.
So we shouldn’t be too surprised that Blanchet has zeroed in histrionically on the planned removal of a single Quebec seat from the Commons as if it were a sign of the End Times. Although Elections Canada proposed the change for the benign reason that Quebec’s population is not growing at the same pace as the populations in Alberta, Ontario or B.C. — and because Quebec is (relative to those other big provinces) already more fairly represented in the current parliamentary seat count — Blanchet is invoking biblical imagery of the final battle between Good and Evil.
Sonia LeBel, Quebec’s minister responsible for relations with the rest of Canada, has employed more moderate language — and advanced a more compelling rationale — in urging special considerations for the province in the latest redistribution of federal ridings. “We are part of the founding peoples of Canada,” she said this week. “We have three seats guaranteed at the Supreme Court for judges. We have seats guaranteed in the Senate, a weight that is important and represents much more than just a simple calculation of population.” All of this is why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other political leaders interested in preserving the peace in our mostly peaceable kingdom need to rise above Blanchet’s blatant bullying while finding a sensible solution to the seat-count conundrum — one that delicately balances numerical fairness with other considerations endemic in a land of complexity and compromise. Remember: there’s no purely mathematical justification for granting a federal seat to each of Canada’s three territories — none of which has a population above 50,000 — when the average number of Canadians represented by each MP is more than 110,000. There’s no logical reason, either, for Prince Edward Island — with a mere 0.43 per cent of the national population of about 38 million — to have four seats representing 1.19 per cent of the elected positions in Parliament.
So there may well be legitimate reasons to avoid reducing Quebec’s seat count at this time. In 2011, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper implemented legislation that increased the number of seats to 338 from 308 to reflect population changes. At the time, the Harper government — with much prodding from Quebec, the BQ and other opposition parties — chose to inflate the overall size of the House of the Commons so that the number of Quebec seats would increase (by three, to 78) instead of remaining static at 75 — as an earlier, hotly rejected, purely mathematical proposal had called for. The government’s thinking at the time was that tweaking the formula for allocating seats in a way that would better recognize Quebec’s special status as a nation within the nation was politically prudent.
It also happened to keep the province’s seat total roughly proportional to its percentage of Canada’s population, even as those two numbers remained unfairly out of whack for faster-growing provinces.
The Quebec-friendly adjustment wasn’t immediately embraced by Harper’s own caucus. The additional Quebec seats, according to a Globe and Mail report at the time, “caused consternation among Conservative backbenchers, who were concerned that Canada’s French-speaking province was benefiting from a bill meant to address under-representation in the three large and fast-growing anglophone provinces” — Alberta, Ontario and B.C. Sound familiar? The Conservative caucus was ultimately convinced by Harper to accept the plan for the sake of national unity. But despite the Quebec-friendly compromise, the pre-Blanchet Bloc Québécois still slammed the 2011 reconfiguration of the House as falling short of true recognition of the province’s “unique status with regard to its political weight.” You can’t please everyone. As then-B.C. premier Christy Clark, who supported the 2011 changes, said at the time: “Perfection in these things is impossible because it’s a big and complicated country.” A decade later, the scenario confronting Elections Canada, the federal government and the provinces is much the same. And maybe a little massaging of the numbers to mollify Quebec is warranted yet again. Would it be so bad if Quebec kept its 78 seats and we had 343 federal ridings instead of 342? That would represent about 22.7 per cent of the seats in the House for a province with about 22.6 per cent of Canada’s population. (Meanwhile, Ontario’s proposed 122 seats would then account for 35.6 per cent of 343 seats for a province with almost 39 per cent of the country’s population.)
But Blanchet’s bluster about unleashing the “fires of hell” risks torching the good will required for the rest of Canada to grant Quebec some latitude in its allotment of seats in the national legislature. It’s the kind of talk that’s more likely to unleash cynicism and stinginess. And eventually, if population trends continue in the current direction, maintaining Quebec’s present share of federal seats as its population drifts towards one-fifth of Canada’s total will become untenable from a democratic point of view — Blanchet’s fires of hell notwithstanding. Randy Boswell is a Carleton University journalism professor and former Postmedia News national writer.
Source: Bloc leader’s threat to unleash ‘fires of hell’ over Quebec seat proposal might just backfire

Yakabuski: Four years after the Quebec mosque tragedy, the Bloc Québécois Leader has learned nothing

Indeed:

Four years ago this week, a disturbed young man walked into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire, killing six people, wounding another eight and forever shattering the blissful innocence of an otherwise peaceful and tolerant community, province and country.

In the immediate aftermath of the slaughter at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, then-premier Philippe Couillard called on the political class to proceed cautiously in the debate over secularism that many felt had unfairly targeted Quebec’s growing Muslim community.

“Words spoken, words written as well, are not trivial,” Mr. Couillard said. “It is up to us to choose them.”

After all, there is a fine line between defending the secularism of the state – the purported objective of the previous Parti Québécois government’s ill-fated Charter of Quebec Values – and stigmatizing members of a religious minority to win the votes of a nationalist Québécois for whom the protection of their province’s cultural distinctness has been a lifelong preoccupation.

No matter how legitimate the desire of some Quebec politicians to keep religion out of the public sphere – a desire informed by the province’s long struggle to break the stranglehold of the Catholic Church on state institutions – too many of them had succumbed to the temptation of raising the bogeyman of Islamization to win votes among pure laine Quebeckers.

In his infinite smugness, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet continues to demonstrate that he has learned nothing about the dangers of resorting to the kind of demagoguery that Mr. Couillard warned against in the wake of 2017′s fatal events. His refusal this week, of all weeks, to apologize for his smearing of Liberal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is too serious an infringement of the basic rules of Canadian and Quebec politics to ignore.

Mr. Blanchet embarked on this slippery slope two weeks ago by dredging up old innuendo about Mr. Alghabra’s “proximity” to Islamic extremists in a press release following the Mississauga-Centre MP’s appointment to the federal cabinet. Saying he refused “to accuse anyone,” Mr. Blanchet nevertheless went on to point to “questions” about Mr. Alghabra’s association with “the Islamic political movement, of which he was a leader for several years.”

If there were any doubts about Mr. Alghabra’s alleged coddling of extremists, they were dispelled years ago. Before going into politics, he briefly led a mainstream organization, the Canadian Arab Federation, that, under a subsequent president, veered in a radical direction. Any attempt by Mr. Blanchet to associate Mr. Alghabra with positions taken by the CAF after his stint as president amounts to engaging in guilt by association and, frankly, sleazy politics.

Former PQ leader Jean-François Lisée nevertheless leapt to Mr. Blanchet’s defence, arguing, in a column in Le Devoir, that Mr. Alghabra had demonstrated a “leniency toward [Hamas] that warrants clarification.” Mr. Lisée provided no evidence of said leniency. But then again, what do you expect from a former politician who, in 2016, argued for a ban on burkas in public because terrorists in Africa had “been proven” to hide AK-47s under such clothing.

Mr. Blanchet was given an opportunity this week to withdraw his previous comments and apologize to Mr. Alghabra. He chose to dig himself into an even deeper hole. “The question I raised in an absolutely polite and courteous manner was based on articles in Le Journal de Montréal, Le Journal de Québec and the very torontois and not very indépendantiste Globe and Mail,” he told reporters. “Quebeckers have concerns on questions of secularism and security.”

The newspaper columns and article Mr. Blanchet referenced only served to prove the baselessness of the “questions” about Mr. Alghabra he sought to raise. Unfortunately, besides a few curious journalists, he knows most people will not bother to check. And in the online echo chamber, where baseless innuendo is the bitcoin of political debate, Mr. Blanchet’s “questions” about an upstanding MP and Liberal cabinet minister take on a life of their own.

It is no mystery why the Bloc Leader resorted to smearing Mr. Alghabra as his party prepares to defend a slew of narrowly-won ridings in a federal election expected later this year. The Bloc, which remains nominally supportive of Quebec independence, portrays Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and their devotion to multiculturalism as a threat to Quebec’s cultural survival. Raising doubts about Mr. Alghabra’s political views serves to plant the seeds of fear and intolerance among a subset of Quebec voters for whom the details do not matter much.

While it is quite legitimate to bemoan the excesses of Liberal multiculturalism – epitomized by Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 inanity about Canada having no core identity – it is quite another to seek to scapegoat religious minorities for political purposes. Mr. Blanchet crossed the line. That he did so on the eve of such a painful anniversary for Quebec’s Muslims says quite a lot about him.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-four-years-after-the-quebec-mosque-tragedy-the-bloc-quebecois-leader/

Glavin: On the death of Samuel Paty – Shouldn’t freedom of religion mean freedom from religion too?

Two articles responding to the reaction in many Muslim countries to French President Macron’s comments following the beheading of Samuel Paty, starting with Terry Glavin’s pointing out the hypocrisy of those who criticize Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate in the West while being silent on Chinese repression and arguably genocidal policies against the Uighurs:

Samuel Paty was a quiet 47-year-old middle-school civics teacher at the Collège du Bois d’Aulne, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the suburbs of Paris. He would walk to and from school from his second-floor apartment in nearby Eragny, where he lived alone with his five-year-old son. After class, he liked to play tennis. By all accounts passionately devoted to teaching, Samuel Paty was otherwise a man of temperate disposition, well-regarded by his students and by his colleagues.

That was just three weeks ago. Now, Paty’s name is coming up in blood-curdling slogans shouted in the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and in arguments and imbecilities erupting in Ankara, Riyadh, Islamabad and Tehran. Ambassadors have been summoned. Diplomats have been recalled. Tuesday this week was officially International Religious Freedom Day. If there was anything worth observing about it, it’s that religious freedom must mean freedom from religion, too, or it means nothing at all.

Source: Glavin: On the death of Samuel Paty – Shouldn’t freedom of religion mean freedom from religion too?

More temperate commentary by Konrad Yakabuski along similar lines:

The beheading this month of a middle-school teacher by an 18-year-old Islamic extremist, upset that his victim had shown caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to his students, was a crime so horrific that it shocked even France’s most-hardened anti-terrorism experts.

In a country permanently on high alert since a wave of terrorist attacks took the lives of hundreds of French civilians in 2015, the gruesome decapitation of teacher Samuel Paty was unanimously condemned by French politicians as an assault on the Republic itself.

“Samuel Paty was killed because the Islamists want our future and because they know that, with heroes like him, they will never have it,” President Emmanuel Macron declared at an Oct. 21 ceremony in honour of the slain teacher held outside the Sorbonne. “We will defend the freedom you taught and raise up secularism. We will not renounce caricatures, or sketches, even if others step back. We will offer all the chances that the Republic owes to its youth without discrimination.”

The caricatures that Mr. Paty had shown his adolescent students, as part of a lesson on freedom of expression, were the same ones that had led to an attack on the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in 2015. That attack left 12 people dead and sparked the global “Je suis Charlie” movement in support of free speech. But Mr. Macron’s defence of the freedom of the press earned him nasty epithets throughout the Muslim world and exposed once again the clash in values between France’s secularist majority and its growing Muslim minority.

French police have rounded up dozens of suspected accomplices to the attack on Mr. Paty by a Chechen refugee who had been alerted to the teacher’s actions by French Muslims who denounced it on social media. Mr. Macron and hardline Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin have vowed further crackdowns on imams accused of promoting Islamic “separation” within France.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the foreign charge against Mr. Macron with weekend diatribes questioning the French President’s mental health and accusing him of “leading a campaign of hate” against Muslims akin to the pre-Second World War treatment of European Jews. On Monday, Mr. Erdogan joined growing calls for a boycott of French products. Anti-Macron protests erupted in several majority-Muslim countries.

While other Western leaders expressed solidarity with Mr. Macron in the wake of Mr. Paty’s killing, it took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 10 days to even acknowledge the incident – and only after the Bloc Québécois brought forward a House of Commons motion condemning the attack “on freedom of expression” in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northeast of Paris.

Questioned by journalists on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau did condemn Mr. Paty’s killing, but declined to express his solidarity with Mr. Macron. “I’m going to take the opportunity to talk to world leaders, community leaders, leaders of the Muslim community here in Canada, to understand their worries, their concerns, to listen and to work to reduce these tensions,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Unfortunately for Mr. Trudeau, there is no middle ground in this debate. If he does not stand with Mr. Macron to defend freedom of expression, he automatically stands with Mr. Erdogan as an apologist for Muslim extremists. A listening tour will not cut it.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne also failed the grade with a Monday tweet in which he expressed “solidarity with our French friends.” He referred to “Turkey’s recent comments” as being “totally unacceptable” but did not rebuke Mr. Erdogan personally. He promised to “defend freedom of expression with respect.”

There is no other way to interpret Mr. Champagne’s tweet except as a repudiation of Mr. Paty and Charlie Hebdo. The caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed were anything but respectful. That was their whole point. No religion is off limits to satirists. And thank God for that.

The right to freedom of speech is meaningless if it is subject to conditions such as “respect.” The Constitution protects freedom of speech precisely because speech that is meaningful is often controversial. It is up to the courts to determine what constitutes hate speech under Section 319 of the Criminal Code. But the bar is set mercifully high. Democracy depends on it.

This is the second time in as many weeks that Mr. Trudeau’s government chose to trample on the Charter in the name of political correctness. After a University of Ottawa professor was suspended for using the n-word as part of an educational online lecture, Mr. Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland made banal pronouncements about fighting systemic racism rather than standing up for academic freedom. It was a facile cop-out on their part.

“We will not give in, ever,” Mr. Macron tweeted on Sunday, in French, English and Arabic. “We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and [we] defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values.”

Canadians should stand with Mr. Macron, even if their government will not.

Source: Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-canadians-should-stand-with-macron-even-if-trudeau-wont/

Clivage entre Québec et Ottawa à propos du «mot en N»

Of note:

Le clivage entre la classe politique québécoise et celle du reste du Canada se confirme dans l’affaire du « mot en N ». Alors qu’à Québec, tous les partis politiques pensent qu’il devrait encore être possible de prononcer le mot « nègre » dans le cadre d’une discussion académique, à Ottawa, les voix affirmant le contraire se multiplient.

Après le chef du NPD Jagmeet Singh, c’est au tour de la nouvelle chef du Parti vert de soutenir que le mot honni devrait être banni du vocabulaire. Annamie Paul, qui est elle-même Noire, estime que le mot « nègre » ne devrait jamais être utilisé par des personnes blanches. Elle laisse aux personnes noires le choix de l’utiliser ou non entre elles. « J’encourage tout le monde, surtout les personnes qui ne font pas partie de notre communauté, à éviter de l’utiliser, dit-elle en entrevue avec Le Devoir. Ça cause beaucoup de peine. Ce n’est pas nécessaire de l’utiliser, pas même dans un milieu académique. »

Mme Paul reconnaît que la communauté noire n’est pas « monolithique ». Mais elle rappelle que ce mot « n’est pas un mot que la communauté noire a choisi pour elle-même. C’est un mot qui a été imposé sur nous par la société blanche ». « Alors s’il y a des personnes de notre communauté qui ont choisi de se l’approprier, le réclamer comme un mot qu’on utilise entre nous, c’est une chose. Mais c’est tout à fait possible de discuter de ce mot, de son histoire, dans un contexte académique sans l’utiliser. »

Selon Mme Paul, « il y a beaucoup de façons » de parler du mot sans utiliser le mot. Mme Paul a toutefois dit ne pas connaître suffisamment le débat pour se prononcer sur la pertinence de suspendre la professeure de l’Université d’Ottawa qui avait prononcé le mot pendant un cours et qui est à l’origine de toute cette controverse. La professeure Verushka Lieutenant-Duval voulait parler de la réappropriation par des communautés minoritaires de certains mots à l’origine insultants pour elles. Il était question du mot « queer » et elle a dressé un parallèle avec le mot « nigger ».

Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau a lui aussi ajouté son grain de sel au débat. Il a déclaré mercredi que « nous devons tous être conscients de la portée de nos paroles. Nous favorisons le respect des autres et l’écoute des communautés. Notre priorité est toujours de mettre de l’avant des actions concrètes pour combattre le racisme sous toutes ses formes. » La veille, sa vice-première ministre Chrystia Freeland avait déclaré que « le racisme anti-Noir est à la fois odieux et illégal ». Elle n’avait pas dit ouvertement qu’elle jugeait raciste l’usage du mot, mais l’avait laissé entendre en déclarant que « lorsque de telles choses se produisent, nous devons nous rassembler et reconnaître les expériences vécues par nos concitoyens ».

À Québec, tous les leaders des partis représentés à l’Assemblée nationale ont soutenu qu’il devrait encore être possible de prononcer le mot, incluant la cheffe libérale Dominique Anglade qui est Noire elle-même.

Source: Clivage entre Québec et Ottawa à propos du «mot en N»

Good Commentary by Konrad Yakabuski of the Globe:

The people who run Canada’s institutions of higher learning can no longer be trusted to stand up for the very principle for which those institutions exist in the first place. When faced with a choice between defending or silencing open debate on campus, they invariably pick the latter.

This cowering in the face of controversy sets the entirely wrong example for the young minds universities were invented to develop. Yet, university administrators who know better would rather give in to the dictates of cancel culture than face the wrath of those who do not.

Consider the response of University of Ottawa Arts dean Kevin Kee in the face of complaints that an art-history professor had used the N-word during an online seminar to illustrate the concept of subversive resignification, or the process by which an insult is reappropriated by those it is meant to insult. The songs of mainstream Black hip-hop artists provide ample proof of this phenomenon. But apparently this is a topic too hot to handle at the U of O.

“This language was offensive and completely unacceptable in our classrooms and on our campus,” Prof. Kee said in a statement this month after a backlash erupted on social media against art-history professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval. “Everyone at the University of Ottawa has the right to an environment free of discrimination and harassment, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect.”

The dean’s statement was highly problematic in and of itself. That someone in Prof. Lieutenant-Duval’s class was offended by her use of the N-word is no excuse for its blanket prohibition in an academic setting. The professor obviously did not use it as a slur. She used it to illustrate a form of cultural expression that seeks to gut offensive words of their power to debase by reappropriating them as markers of identity. She also used the word “queer” as an example.

The U of O’s administration was having none of it, however. On Monday, president and vice-chancellor Jacques Frémont, a former head of Quebec’s human-rights commission, weighed in on the matter with this: “Members of dominant groups simply have no legitimacy to decide what constitutes a microaggression.” According to this point of view, a white professor’s right to freedom of expression comes second to the “right to dignity” of minority students.

To put these two concepts on equal footing is a sophism unacceptable from someone in Mr. Frémont’s position. Academic freedom means having the freedom to offend, even if that was most definitely not Prof. Lieutenant-Duval’s intention. Mr. Frémont added insult to injury by saying that Prof. Lieutenant-Duval, who was briefly suspended from teaching this month, “could have chosen not to use the full N-word. Yet she did and is now facing the consequences.”

The consequences? What is that supposed to mean? That she was only asking for online harassment and threats directed at her by daring to treat her students as adults? If those who attacked Prof. Lieutenant-Duval are unwilling to discuss difficult topics, and risk being offended in the process, perhaps a university classroom is the wrong place for them.

The controversy at the U of O, which bills itself as the world’s largest bilingual university, has particularly reverberated in Quebec. Many of the online attacks directed at Prof. Lieutenant-Duval referenced the fact that she is francophone; some used well-worn slurs to do so.

“What also troubles me is seeing the university throw this professor to the wolves of aggressive militants who use violent language against her and [other] francophones. I can’t help but see a certain cowardice on the part of the administration,” Quebec Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault wrote in a Facebook post defending Prof. Lieutenant-Duval’s academic freedom.

“It’s as if there is a censorship police,” Premier François Legault added on Tuesday, saying he would take up the matter with his Ontario counterpart, Doug Ford.

Prof. Lieutenant-Duval needs better advocates than these two. Mr. Legault’s government has stubbornly resisted calls to recognize systemic racism in provincial institutions, on the grounds that doing so would be tantamount to labelling Quebec a racist society. His government’s attempt to make a cause célèbre of Prof. Lieutenant-Duval’s case only muddies the water.

Still, francophones also make up most of the nearly three dozen U of O professors who signed a letter defending Prof. Lieutenant-Duval, suggesting many of her anglophone colleagues are too afraid to speak up on her behalf. After all, there would be “consequences.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-university-of-ottawa-throws-academic-freedom-under-the-bus/

@KonradYakabuski François Legault’s denial of systemic racism reveals Quebec’s great divide

Good commentary on the new “two solitudes” of Quebec::

When Dominique Anglade became the Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party last month, a historic step forward for equality was buried under an avalanche of sad statistics as the province grappled with Canada’s worst COVID-19 outbreak.

Ms. Anglade, who won the job by acclamation after the only other candidate in the race dropped out, is the first woman to lead the party in its 153-year history. She is also Black and the daughter of Haitian immigrants in a province whose top institutions are still dominated by white men descended from 17th-century French colonists.

Still, Ms. Anglade’s odds of winning next election remain low. The QLP holds no ridings outside of non-francophone Quebec. Recent polls place support for Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec at more than 60 per cent among francophone voters. The QLP barely cracks double digits. Although all but two of her 15 predecessors as leader went on to serve as premier, Ms. Anglade faces a steep challenge if she is to avoid becoming the third.

Such is the extent to which Mr. Legault has come to dominate Quebec politics since the party he founded in 2011 won power 20 months ago. His approval rating was slightly dented as the coronavirus death toll mounted in long-term care homes, but it remains through the roof. Not since René Lévesque have Quebeckers seemed to like their premier this much.

This explains why Mr. Legault was in no hurry last week to concede that systemic racism exists within Quebec society. Unlike Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who quickly changed his tune after initially denying the existence of systemic racism in Canada, Mr. Legault has continued to insist there is no “system of discrimination” against visible minorities in Quebec.

Although thousands of people marched in Montreal on Sunday to argue otherwise, Mr. Legault’s own political base is with him on this one. While his refusal to state the obvious drew guffaws among many Montreal-based media commentators, others defended the Premier.

“This murky concept [of systemic racism] has no scientific value. Its principal function is to associate all forms of resistance toward multiculturalism with racism,” prominent Quebecor Media columnist Mathieu Bock-Côté wrote last week. “When you search pseudo-scientific literature on systemic racism, you find that the main proof [offered for] its existence lies in the fact of [others] not recognizing it.”

Quebec nationalists have always dismissed Ottawa’s official policy of multiculturalism as a political strategy aimed at winning votes among ethnic Canadians. So, it should hardly come as a surprise that the concept of systemic racism so eagerly embraced by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau would be a harder sell in Quebec than the rest of Canada.

This was clear in debate over Bill 21, the law Mr. Legault’s government passed last year to ban public-sector employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols. The law might easily be held up as an example of systemic discrimination, since it institutionalizes barriers faced by certain Muslim women. But it remains extremely popular among francophone Quebeckers, most of whom live outside Montreal.

The political divide between Montreal, long the home of the province’s anglophone elite, and the rest of Quebec has always been a large one. But it has grown in recent years as the city became the destination for thousands of immigrants from North Africa and Haiti. White francophones who live in Montreal’s hip Plateau Mont-Royal or Rosemont neighbourhoods tend to be far more progressive in their politics than their relatives in the suburbs.

This clash in values between Montrealers and other Quebeckers risks putting the province on a path toward the extreme political polarization that has destabilized the United States and many European countries. Mr. Legault may not need to win over voters in Montreal to keep his job in 2022. But unless he wants his province to descend into civil war, he will need to make greater efforts to bridge the political gap between Montreal and the rest of Quebec.

He took a tentative step in that direction this week by promising to soon release an action plan for combating racism that could include police reforms. But in calling for “quiet evolution” of Quebec society, in contrast to the province’s Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, Mr. Legault appeared to minimize the importance of the issue. He will need to do much better than that.

Source: François Legault’s denial of systemic racism reveals Quebec’s great divide

Yakabuski: Trudeau government’s deliverology experiment ends with a whimper

While all governments have both bureaucratic and political level tracking systems, deliverology being just one approach, the success or failure is often determined more on the lower priority files than the high profile screwups that Yakabuski highlights.

And execution has been the Achilles heel of many governments:

One of the great ironies of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is that it has proved so ineffective in the one area where it so emphatically promised to outdo its predecessors.

It was always presumptuous on the part of Mr. Trudeau and his former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, to suggest they would run a more effective government than any of those that came before them. But by dropping the ball so spectacularly on so many key files, Mr. Trudeau’s Prime Minister’s Office set itself up for the failure that has now befallen it.

There were self-satisfied chuckles of schadenfreude across the civil service this week as Mr. Trudeau announced the departure of Matthew Mendelsohn as the deputy secretary to the federal cabinet heading up the government’s “results and delivery” unit. With Mr. Mendelsohn’s return to academia, the Trudeau government’s much-hyped experiment in “deliverology” has ended in a whimper.

Mr. Trudeau thanked Mr. Mendelsohn for his “service to Canadians,” but cited not a single accomplishment made by the results and delivery unit that he and Mr. Butts had so championed. Nor did he name an immediate successor to Mr. Mendelsohn, a top official in former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s government who is joining Ryerson University in Toronto.

Mr. Mendelsohn, in Twitter posts, tried to put a positive spin on his tenure, insisting that the “new governance, processes and routines we established helped the government overcome implementation obstacles and hit most of the key targets it identified four years ago.”

Still, the Prime Minister’s silence on the successes (or lack thereof) of the unit Mr. Mendelsohn headed contrasted sharply with the hubris that spewed out of the Butts-led PMO in 2015, which promised to revolutionize policy making and implementation in the federal capital.

Mr. Trudeau’s government spent at least $200,000 to pick the brain of Sir Michael Barber, flying the British consultant and “deliverology” guru to cabinet retreats at resorts in New Brunswick, Alberta and Ontario. Sir Michael was handed a mandate from the Privy Council Office to “provide ongoing information, recommendations and advice on a tailored program to guide departments to meet commitments and deliver on priorities.”

Unfortunately, Sir Michael’s services did not come with a money-back guarantee. And in the end, they may have bought only grief for Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Butts, who resigned last year in the wake of the scandal involving alleged pressure from the PMO on former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement.

To anyone who has worked in government, the whole concept of “deliverology” smacked of warmed-over administration theory repackaged by former bureaucrats-turned-consultants seeking to monetize their insider knowledge of the public service. And career bureaucrats do not take kindly to know-it-all political appointees telling them how to do their jobs.

The Trudeau PMO “imposed another layer of administration on some public servants. Their departments had been abiding by evaluation and performance policies for more than 40 years,” former Ottawa Citizen reporter Kathryn May wrote last year in Policy Options. “With deliverology, the public service still did all that work, and now they also had to report the progress on all the government’s goals to a ‘delivery unit,’ which, along with ministers and the Prime Minister, monitored and tracked these priorities.”

The Trudeau PMO has never seemed clear on its own priorities. So how could it expect the senior bureaucracy to be clear on them? At both the micro-policy level (electoral reform, balancing the budget by 2019) and macro-policy level (reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, supporting economic growth while fighting climate change), the Trudeau government has continually sent mixed signals to the bureaucracy about how seriously it takes its own promises.

When it has sprung into action, the Trudeau PMO has typically made a mess of it. The SNC-Lavalin affair, which started out with a straightforward move to bring Canadian law on deferred prosecution agreements in line with that of other developed countries, nearly destroyed Mr. Trudeau’s government all because the PMO failed to abide by its own deliverology credo.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the Trudeau government’s most notable successes – the implementation of the Canada Child Benefit and medical aid in dying, and the negotiation of new health-care funding agreements with the provinces – were overseen by low-key ministers who kept their eyes on the ball rather than their Twitter feeds. Social Development Minister Jean- Yves Duclos and Jane Philpott, Mr. Trudeau’s first health minister, were focused on results, not retweets.

Overall, however, execution has proved to be the Achilles heel of this government. It has proved inept at buying fighter planes or fixing the Phoenix pay system. It promised a bigger role for Canada in global affairs but has earned a reputation abroad for being fickle and stingy. The Canada Infrastructure Bank extends its record for overpromising and underdelivering.

Indeed, the scariest words in Canadian English may have become: “I’m from the Trudeau government, and I’m here to help.”

Source: Trudeau government’s deliverology experiment ends with a whimper

Opinion: Canada shouldn’t welcome birth tourists

Two columns the same day in the Globe on birth tourism. Always nice to see some of my analysis provoking more public discussion:

Starting with the stronger piece by health reporter, André Picard:

Birth tourism is the name given to the practice of pregnant women travelling to Canada from other countries – predominantly China – to give birth. They do so because children born on Canadian soil automatically become Canadian citizens.

The children, known as passport babies, can eventually benefit from lower university tuition, visa-free travel to many countries, and even sponsor other family members to become citizens. For wealthy Chinese nationals, it’s a golden ticket out of a country with a repressive regime.

But the practice raises the question: Should Canadians hospitals – unwittingly or not – be selling citizenship?

Until recently, birth tourism was viewed as a marginal issue. Statistics Canada reported that, out of 383,315 births in 2016, only 313 babies were born to mothers who don’t live in Canada. But anecdotal reports suggested the real number of passport babies was much higher.

Andrew Griffith, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, did a deep dive into data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and foundthere were 3,223 births by non-residents in Canadian hospitals in 2016, excluding Quebec.

That number has since jumped to 4,099 in 2018.

Some of those births could be international students or temporary residents working in Canada, but there is no question the large majority travelled with the express purpose of giving birth in this country.

In B.C., Richmond Hospital alone had 453 births by non-resident mothers last year, 23 per cent of all births. Mackenzie Health in Richmond Hill, Ont., had 229 birth tourists, 13.3 per cent of its births.

Birth tourism is not cheap – roughly $60,000, including hospital fees and a three-month stay in a “birth house,” facilities that have sprung up, mostly around hospitals in suburban Vancouver and Toronto.

There are more than two dozen birth houses in Richmond, B.C. alone. Brokers in China widely advertise the benefits of giving birth in the “maple syrup kingdom,” and collect hefty commissions.

Kathleen Ross, president of Doctors of B.C., recently spoke out about the practice, saying it is straining hospital resources and putting doctors in an impossible position.

While it would be unethical for a doctor to not assist a woman giving birth, some, such as Dr. Ross, have been stiffed by clients who didn’t pay. (An obstetrician is paid between $600 and $1,500 for a birth but they must collect privately if a patient is not covered by medicare.)

Hospitals also had problems collecting from birth tourists. The South China Morning Post reported on the case of the “million-dollar baby,” a patient who had a complicated birth and racked up costs totalling $312,595, then skipped town. Last year, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority sued Yai Xia, alleging she now owes $1.2-million with interest dating back to 2012.

Most hospitals now demand upfront payments, ranging from $8,000 to $15,000. Whether the parents pay or not, the passport babies still have Canadian citizenship. Canada is only one of about three dozen countries in the world which grants birthright citizenship – automatic citizenship to anyone born on Canadian soil. This has been the practice since 1947.

The government of Stephen Harper considered changing the law but determined it would result in too many unintended consequences. Canadians generally use birth certificates to access government services; if citizenship was in question, they would require passports, and 40 per cent of Canadians don’t have a passport.

Birth tourism rankles the public because it feels like cheating. Both Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido and Conservative MP Alice Wong have tabled petitions in the Commons demanding change. It’s not a coincidence that they both represent ridings with large immigrant populations. Newcomers appreciate the difficulty obtaining and the privilege of citizenship.

The answer is not to toss out the jus soli (right of the soil) principle that is part of Canada’s heritage, but to address the specific challenge posed by birth tourism.

The way to do that is to adopt visa restrictions – denying visas to women who are coming to Canada expressly to give birth, and to crack down on both brokers and birth houses. We could also go the way of Australia, which modified its laws so that citizenship was granted only if one of the parents was a citizen or permanent resident, or the child lives at least 10 years in the country.

Neither Canadian identity nor the Canadian health system is threatened by birth tourism. The central issue is fair play: Canada should remain a welcoming country but not one whose citizenship is for sale.

Source: Opinion: Canada shouldn’t welcome birth tourists

Political columnist Konrad Yakabuski:

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: Opinion: Canada shouldn’t welcome birth tourists

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