Where is the PM when Quebec needs him? Lysiane Gagnon

Worth reading, but not as sanguine about her conclusion regarding overall Canadian fears or not regarding Canadian Muslims.

Virtually all polling I have seen, as well as the identity politics practiced by the Conservative government, suggest that a significant number of Canadians do share this fear.

Fine balance between over and under-playing, but overall better to downplay and avoid over-heating fears:

Former prime minister Stephen Harper was too warlike. Now, we have the other extreme: a prime minister who hates conflicts and sees the world through a New Age prism in which everything can be solved with love and understanding. Unfortunately, the country he leads doesn’t live in a dream world.

Maybe Mr. Trudeau’s timidity is also due to the fear of raising anti-Muslim sentiments. But this is a misplaced fear: Canadians are not stupid and they know that the huge majority of Muslims have nothing to do with radical Islam. And Muslims are often the first victims of the murderous groups who reign by terror over large parts of the Middle East and Africa.

Source: Where is the PM when Quebec needs him? – The Globe and Mail

Trudeau’s diverse cabinet not a true Canadian portrait – Gagnon

While true, commentators sometimes miss the forest for the trees.

Compared to previous federal cabinets, the Trudeau cabinet represents progress. For example, the previous Conservative cabinet was only 30 percent women and the three visible minority members were only in junior positions (multiculturalism, sport, seniors).

I suspect that some of the gaps pointed out will be addressed when parliamentary secretaries appointed.

And Gagnon is also factually wrong: Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources is Jewish.

It would be interesting, rather than just carping on the sidelines, to come up with an alternate cabinet that would balance regional, gender, ethnic origin, and experience – not as easy as it sounds:

“A cabinet that looks like Canada!” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exclaimed as he introduced his ministers. But this was false on several counts.

A cabinet that includes no one of Italian or Chinese origin, a cabinet without Jews or Arabs, a cabinet without a single black person – while Sikhs (who comprise about 1.4 per cent of the Canadian population) hold four cabinet posts – is not a true portrait of Canada. Not that I mind. The last thing a modern government needs is a cabinet that would reflect the exact ethnic makeup of the population. That’s because it’s impossible to achieve: Ministers are chosen from a caucus that results from the vagaries of politics and doesn’t correspond to demographic reality. For example, the Liberals have only a handful of black MPs, two MPs of Chinese descent – and 16 Sikhs, reflecting the active interest of Sikhs in politics and of a pattern of block voting in ridings with a significant Sikh minority.

Mr. Trudeau also prides himself on having formed the first federal cabinet with gender parity. False again. It is actually built on gender inequity. The Liberal caucus counts 134 men and 50 women, meaning that at the outset, every female MP had roughly three chances more than her male colleagues to be appointed to cabinet. Shouldn’t gender equity apply to men as well?

Those who want the proportion of female cabinet ministers to reflect the female population should insist that the political parties present many more women in “good” ridings – ridings where they have a real chance of being elected. Then a prime minister would have a larger pool of qualified female MPs to choose from when forming the cabinet.

Source: Trudeau’s diverse cabinet not a true Canadian portrait – The Globe and Mail

Quebec reopens its identity can of worms – Gagnon

Appropriately cutting commentary by Lysiane Gagnon:

What’s the link between an Islamist terrorist and a daycare worker who wears the hijab? Any sensible person would find the question utterly silly, but not Quebec’s radical secularists – and they’re at it again.

Here they are, shamelessly exploiting the terrorist attacks in Paris that left 12 dead three weeks ago, calling for a ban on religious symbols – as if such a ban was some sort of guarantee against potential terrorist attacks. (If it were, France wouldn’t have been targeted so often by home-grown terrorists, since it has the most stringent secular policies by far in the Western world.)

The blood of the Paris victims wasn’t even dry when Quebec’s radical secularists, led by the Parti Québécois opposition, began campaigning for some sort of revival of the secular charter that died when former premier Pauline Marois’s government was defeated after months of divisive and emotional debate.

The PQ, knowing full well that Premier Philippe Couillard is uncomfortable with identity politics, is pushing the government to pass legislation his Liberals promised, unwisely, before the election. The legislation, a much milder version of the PQ charter, would forbid public-sector employees to cover their faces (a non-existent problem) and set rules for “reasonable accommodations” between institutions and religious customers or employees (a problem that’s already been solved by local administrations).

Quebec reopens its identity can of worms – The Globe and Mail.

And Don Macpherson of the Gazette, on some of the internal PQ politics following Jean-François Lisée’s decision to pull out of the leadership race:

On sovereignty, Lisée said, the PQ had to “look the situation in the face.” It had to win the support of young people, who have “turned their backs on us,” and minorities, which “do not recognize themselves in us.” It had to accept the possibility that even with hard work, it might not win a mandate in the 2018 general election to hold a referendum.

The party had to “re-examine the contours of our project,” with a referendum process negotiated with the rest of Canada and “real independence,” with a Quebec currency as well as a Quebec citizenship. It had to end its “ambiguity on its identity” and show clearly that it is left-of-centre, environmentalist and humanist. It could no longer be against climate change and for developing shale oil.

And while the PQ continued to fight against the decline of French and for secularism, it had to have “a more open attitude” toward the English-speaking community and “a more active one” on the integration of immigrants.

But, Lisée said, there was no point in his going on; the election in May had already been decided, and Pierre Karl Péladeau had won. Lisée spoke with resignation and a trace of bitterness about the PQ wanting to “live its Pierre Karl Péladeau moment right to the end.” It was as if the PQ was infatuated with his rival for its affections, a passion against which Lisée was helpless and hopeless.

Don Macpherson: The PQ is determined to have its PK Peladeau moment

In Quebec, a dim future for sovereignty – Lysiane Gagnon

In light of the dramatic fall in PQ support following PKP’s fist pump, striking just how much public opinion in Quebec has gelled against sovereignty. Two weeks till the election, and a lot could change, but the trend line and generational divide is not encouraging for the PQ:

If there is another referendum, everybody seems to agree, including sovereigntist leaders, that the question will have to exclusively focus on sovereignty. This makes a Yes victory even harder to attain.

Prof. Durand’s data also show that support for sovereignty is lower than it was on the eve of the 1980 and 1995 referendums. The major difference, she says, is that sovereignty no longer mobilizes those under 50 and the most educated.

What’s the future of an option that doesn’t attract younger generations?

In Quebec, a dim future for sovereignty – The Globe and Mail.

Quebec Values Charter: Politics and Strategy

A number of pieces on the politics of the Charter, starting with Graeme Hamilton of the National Post:

From the man who last September forcefully staked out an opposition position, saying the proposed charter of values would pass “over my dead body,” Mr. Couillard has been dragged onto the PQ’s preferred populist terrain.

Now, his declarations of principle are qualified. “Quebec is an open and inclusive host society,” he told reporters at one point, “but Quebecers want the values of the host society to affirm themselves and be preserved in the expression of religious freedom of all Quebecers.”

Graeme Hamilton: Anyone doubting the PQ is winning with the Values Charter only needed listen to the Liberals on Tuesday | National Post.

Lysiane Gagnon in The Globe takes a similar bent:

The Machiavellian plan of the PQ strategists is working: Take a wedge issue that will remobilize your base of core supporters, play on the widespread negative feelings toward visible immigrants (Muslims especially) while pretending to serve the noble goals of secularism and gender equity, ride on the instinctive reactions of the “real people” against the “disconnected elites” and there you are.

At first, most observers couldn’t believe the PQ would dare run an election campaign on the backs of minorities, but this is what will happen. The plan is unfolding as it should: The parliamentary commission that is currently studying the bill will continue for more than two months – long enough to keep the issue alive until early spring, when the government could call an election.

The minister responsible for the secular bill, Bernard Drainville, announced at the outset that he wouldn’t make compromises, not even with the Coalition Avenir Québec, the third party that proposes to limit the ban to teachers.

Indeed, the government doesn’t want the bill to be adopted, so that the issue can serve as an election platform plank and maybe as a pretext to call a spring election, on the grounds that the government needs a majority to pass the popular bill.

Wedge politics are the PQ’s best friend 

L’appui à la Charte ne se dément pas

See also, Chantal Hébert’s Stars aligning for Marois to call snap Quebec election: Hébert.

In other Charter related news, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre continues to criticize the Charter (Coderre attaquera de front la Charte de la laïcité), the Liberal Party of Quebec clarifies its watered down stand (Le PLQ revendique la liberté totale de porter des signes religiousQuebec Liberal leader clarifies the party’s stance on the PQ values charter),  a comparison between Fatima Houda-Pépin and Maria Mourani, coming from different positions, both left their political parties (Houda-Pepin et Mourani, même combat).

Further commentary from the perspective of some in the GBLT community (Une laïcité ouverte… à la démagogie):

Rien n’est plus faux que de prétendre que c’est l’affirmation de la laïcité qui est une menace pour les minorités sexuelles. Nos communautés savent trop bien qu’« Étant donné la prégnance de la morale religieuse, les personnes homosexuelles sont demeurées longtemps dans l’ombre. La doctrine religieuse servait alors de caution à leur stigmatisation », comme le rappelait dès les premières lignes le rapport du Groupe mixte de travail sur l’homophobie. Et elles comprennent bien que ce sont ceux qui s’acharnent à défendre les privilèges religieux, qui s’alignent objectivement sur le programme de Stephen Harper en attaquant la laïcité, qui constituent la véritable menace à nos droits.

One of the more extreme secular testimony at the hearings, given by a woman of Tunisian origen, Rakia Fourati (La charte serait «nécessaire» pour prévenir l’intégrisme):

« Qu’il soit rouge, vert, noir, porté d’une façon élégante avec des boucles d’oreille, avec un maquillage ou sans maquillage, ça reste toujours un symbole […] qui est l’intégrisme, qui est la soumission sous toutes ses formes », a soutenu mardi la femme d’origine tunisienne devant les membres de la commission parlementaire chargée d’étudier la charte de la laïcité du gouvernement péquiste.

Quebec’s Tea Party Moment – NYTimes.com

While their is ongoing debate within Quebec and Canada about the degree to which criticism of the Charter within Canada is helpful or not to Quebec debates (conventional wisdom is that it falls into the PQ strategy of increasing the contrast and polarization between Quebec and Canada), an article in the New York Times, by Maclean’s analyst Martin Patriquin, (Patriquin has been consistent in his views for a long time), raises the stakes somewhat:

In catering to this white, populist rural vote, the left-of-center Parti Québécois has seemingly ventured into Tea Party territory. Janette Bertrand, the 88-year-old leader of a pro-charter group, recently told a newspaper that she would be “scared” to be served by a veiled doctor, because Muslims let women “die faster.” She wasn’t joking.

Anti-immigrant sentiment exists across Canada. Yet Quebec is the only province with a political party willing to exploit that sentiment for political gain. Will it work? Probably not, if only because winning any future referendum on Quebec’s separation from Canada would mean putting the question to each and every Quebecer — including the very people the Parti Québécois is scaring and scapegoating today.

Quebec’s Tea Party Moment – NYTimes.com.

Sure enough, the Quebec Minister responsible for the Bill felt compelled to respond to the critique , reverting to the time-honoured technique of attacking the messenger:

«Or ce n’est pas du journalisme, a commenté Bernard Drainville. C’est de l’opinion. D’ailleurs, M. Patriquin n’en est pas à ses premières frasques. Il a déjà dit que la corruption faisait partie de l’ADN des Québécois», a-t-il rappelé au sujet de ce qu’avait publié le magazine anglophone Maclean’s, en 2010. (an ironic reference, given the current hearings on corruption in Quebec’s construction industry)

La Charte des valeurs, digne du Tea Party? Bof! répond Drainville | Michel Corbeil | Politique

And in minor Charter news, François Legault, the leader of the CAQ distances itself from the comments mentioned yesterday by the former leader of its predecessor, the ADQ, cited yesterday («L’islam, une religion de violence», selon le fondateur de l’ADQ), reflecting how Quebec discussions on multiculturalism and interculturalism have evolved over the years:

Charte: François Legault se distancie de Jean Allaire | Denis Lessard | Politique québécoise

And the Liberal Party of Quebec, while considering legislation limiting the wearing of the niqab or burqa (Le PLQ prépare un projet de loi contre l’intégrisme religious), nevertheless is open – at least in theory – to potential LPQ candidates wearing the chador (in practice, hard to see how any candidate wearing a chador would be nominated a candidate, let alone win, but the party is being consistent that the dividing line is being able to see the face):

PLQ: les candidates portant le tchador seront bienvenues | Jocelyne Richer | Politique québécoise

And lastly, Lysiane Gagnon on the PQ political strategy:

If it wins a majority, Premier Pauline Marois’s government will unfold the second part of the strategy, hoping that its identity legislation will inflame the political climate, provoke an angry backlash in the rest of Canada and eventually push a majority of francophones to react by voting Yes to another sovereignty referendum. The sovereigntists will argue that “English Canada” and the federal government are imposing values alien to Quebec (multiculturalism, for instance) and depriving Quebec of the right to adopt the policies it needs for its cultural survival.

 PQ’s charter madness has a method 

Il faudrait se brancher! | Lysiane Gagnon

Lysiane Gagnon, asking the question, if Quebec is worried about Muslim immigration, why do its selection criteria favour French competency, which means more immigration from the Magreb? Of course, the experience in anglophone regions and countries (e.g., Australia) suggests language is a key determinant of integration and success in the labour force; and language training is less effective than already having language competency. Selecting immigrants for “cultural suitability” has a long history in Canada of immigration restrictions, largely racist in origin (e.g., Chinese head tax, continuous journey clause).

Peut-être faudrait-il aussi penser à diversifier les sources de l\’immigration, tout en continuant à favoriser l\’immigration en provenance de la francophonie méditerranéenne qui a jusqu\’ici si bien servi le Québec.

Pourquoi ne pas penser, par exemple, aux Grecs ou aux Espagnols que la crise européenne pousse à l\’exil? Aux chrétiens du Moyen-Orient avides de paix? Aux Chinois, aux Vietnamiens ou aux Philippins qu\’on ignore sous prétexte que leur langue seconde est généralement l\’anglais… mais qui sont remarquablement «adaptables» ? Il s\’agit d\’une main-d\’oeuvre travaillante et flexible, qui accorde une valeur primordiale à la scolarité de ses enfants, et qui ne transporte pas de lourd bagage religieux (sauf les Philippins qui sont… catholiques!).

Il faudrait se brancher! | Lysiane Gagnon | Lysiane Gagnon.

How Marois made a prophet out of Pierre Trudeau and other Charter articles

A round-up of Charter-related articles, starting with Paul Adams reminding us of the blind end of ethnic and identity politics:

…. progressives are reluctant to give Stephen Harper credit for much of anything. But one bit of data in a recent Ipsos Reid poll has startling implications: the Conservatives are in a comfortable first place among foreign-born Canadians.

I defy you to find another developed country where a conservative party — and one with a populist past to boot — can claim such an achievement.

Whether it was moral insight or political advantage that led Harper to turn his back on the Reform Party’s red streak of xenophobia doesn’t really matter. He made a choice that was immensely important to that young woman in the supermarket, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not.

Marois and Drainville have made a different choice. And they’ve made a prophet of Pierre Trudeau, the man who predicted Quebec’s political nationalism would lead inevitably to an ethnic dead end.

How Marois made a prophet out of Pierre Trudeau | iPolitics.

And good commentary from Emmett Macfarlane of University of Waterloo, noting that judges also have an ideology and biases, similar to the arguments I make in Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism with respect to public servants:

It is a myth Ms. L’Heureux-Dubé herself helped propagate when she was interviewed before the House of Commons standing committee on justice in 2004, which was examining reform to the Supreme Court appointments process. Asked about the role ideology might play in judging, L’Heureux-Dubé stated: “We talk about ideology, but very few of us [judges] have any. You may not perceive that, but we look at a case by first reading and knowing the facts and then reading the briefs, and then we make up our minds.”

A generous interpretation of these comments would not take them as literal – everyone has an ideology, it is what allows us to make sense of the world around us – but rather as a suggestion that judges can simply separate themselves from ideology and apply the law (as a thing somehow autonomous from politics) in an objective fashion. But would anyone seriously believe that if Ms. L’Heureux-Dubé were on the Court today she would refrain from upholding the Quebec Values Charter as constitutional?

It sometimes appears that judges would like to have their constitutional cake and eat it too. By supporting the notion that courts can reach the “correct” answer on where broad constitutional phrases like “freedom of expression” begin and end – often settling controversies about which reasonable people might reasonably disagree – by somehow detaching themselves from their political ideology, we are presented with a caricature of judges as infallible oracles.

 Secular Charter case shows Supreme Court judges can be ideological – and wrong

And some general updates on the debates and discussion in Quebec, starting with hospitals wanting a general exception:

Charte des valeurs: les hôpitaux veulent une exemption

Lysiane Gagnon noting how the proposed Charter has created a feminist rift between radical and liberal feminists:

In Quebec, a feminist rift over secularism

Gerry Weiner, former multiculturalism minister during the Mulroney government who negotiated the Japanese Canadian redress agreement and led the development of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, is harshly critical of the proposed Charter:

“In the name of separation of church and state, the charter presents the government with a way to abandon the previous policy of tolerance and respect for minority communities that has been an integral part of Quebec for many decades.

“Instead the charter proposes a policy of uniformity, a policy of enforced assimilation, and a contempt for minority values—vilifying them as outsiders and not a part of the real Quebec,” he told his audience who during WW II were vilified and interned in war camps as being dangerous outsiders, where not a shred of intelligence justified such an action.

He noted that he is worried that this is a policy that will divide the province, “that it could strip away decades of building a caring society, of returning us to the Quebec of my youth filled with hate, discrimination, and indifference.  It had taken many decades to become what we are today, with a wonderful quality of life.”

Weiner says Quebec charter to break up Canada

Charte des valeurs: Some Good Opinion Pieces

Starting to blink as the Quebec Minister for Montréal, Jean-François Lisée signals open to compromise. However, what sort of compromise, and how do you compromise fundamental human rights, is another matter. A suivre:

Charte des valeurs: porte ouverte aux compromis | Le Devoir.

And a range of commentary in The Globe, ranging from Jeffrey Simpson on the Charter being a wedge issue, one that seems to be backfiring on the PQ,  and not even working well, Jack Jedwab of the Association for Canadian Studies provides a solid critique, contrasting with Canadian multiculturalism, and Lysiane Gagnon reminds us of the different histories of France and Quebec, and how France is hardly a model to follow. Francine Pelletier in Le Devoir also notes the generational gap on how the Charter and related issues are seen..

The Quebec charter is a wedge issue solely of the mind

No thanks Ms. Marois, I’ll take Canada’s brand of multiculturalism

Could Quebec go further than France?

La Charte de la chicane

Less profound commentary comes from Robert Sibley in The Citizen, who focuses on easier issue of the niqab/burqa, and is silent on the hijab. Not one word. And the issue in the Quebec Charter is more the hijab and other head coverings (kippa, turban etc.), rather than the niqab/burqa.

Targeting one religion without making a distinction between the two is intellectually dishonest at best. There is a wide range within the Muslim Canadian community from the secular to those who wear the hijab, and how they wear the hijab a similar range between extreme versions (no hair showing) to colourful and flirtish versions.

Might Quebec’s “charter of values” serve real Islamic values

Tarek Fatah repeats his call in The Sun for banning the burqa/niqab, citing the reason court decision in the UK that allowed for a woman to wear the niqab during her trial. This was a more permissive ruling than the recent Canadian Supreme Court ruling which set some tests. I am with Fatah on this; when it involves government identification requirements, working in a government office, or implicated in the legal system, accommodation is not appropriate. Walking down the street is one thing, compliance with government and legal requirements and practices is another thing.

West should ban niqab

Quebec Values Charter Round-up

A bit of a longer round-up today.

Starting with Lysiane Gagnon in the Globe:

In Quebec, as in France, secularism often serves as a screen for plain xenophobia. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right Front National, constantly invokes the tradition of laïcité to justify anti-immigrant policies. In Quebec, the discovery of the concept dates from around 2007, coinciding with the rise of Muslim immigration and a few incidents involving unreasonable demands by fundamentalists.

Quebec wants secularism – for some – The Globe and Mail.

And Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne weighs into the debate:

Asked directly about the Quebec proposal, Wynne said her government will continue to promote diversity in its policies and practices.

“Respecting that diversity, being inclusive and finding the shared Canadian values that we all believe in, that’s what our strength is as a province, so that’s how I will proceed,” she said.

“Other provinces, you know, will make their decisions, but I see our strength as our diversity.”

Ontario’s premier criticizes Quebec’s secular charter, says diversity is strength

And Nahid Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary, continues to play one of the strongest roles in commenting on the negative aspects of the Charter:

‘What we’re looking at under this charter of secularism is intolerance. Plain and simple,’ Calgary’s mayor said, continuing his criticism

Nenshi calls PQ ‘values’ charter ‘social suicide,’ suggests that upset Quebecers move to Calgary and

Calgary’s mayor gives PQ a refreshing blast of mockery over xenophobic ‘values’ plan

And a reminder about the likely real goal of the PQ in proposing the Charter, using wedge politics to support another referendum:

Quebec’s Marois eyeing another sovereignty referendum

While PM Marois helps create a less welcoming, inclusive society with the Charter, she of course also denounces the recent vandalism, likely a hate crime, of the Mosque in Saguenay, but in Montreal, not with a visit:

Marois dénonce le vandalisme commis sur une mosquée de Saguenay

But Muslim Québécois are understandably worried about how the Charter may feed such intolerance and encourage more vandalism and hate crimes, even if other parts of the country also suffer from such incidents:

Des musulmans craignent une montée de l’intolérance

And on a more encouraging note, and broadening the discussion beyond Muslim Canadians, Mindy Pollack, a 24-year-old Hasidic woman is running for municipal office to reach the divide between Hasidic Jews and their neighbours. A reminder that the issue is participation and integration with the broader community that counts:

“It’s really revolutionary,” Ms. Pollak said. “But if we focus on what we have in common rather than what divides us, then we can work toward solutions.”

 Montreal candidate aims to bridge divide between city and its Hasidic heartland 

And lastly, a somewhat confused article by Tahir Gora on what is included in multiculturalism or not, i.e., whether it is deep multiculturalism, with parallel institutions and rights, or shallow multiculturalism, with all living under the same legal system and Canadian and other charters. The Canadian version is the latter, although every now and then, people will push the limits (as we all do in a democracy). The key point is to maximize the common space for all, and whether one wears a kippa, turban or hijab is less important that being with, and interacting with, others of different or no faith

Would Quebec be Able to Deliver True Multiculturalism?