Douglas Todd: Why populism hasn’t come to (English) Canada. Yet

Eric Kaufmann’s work continues to strike a chord among those with concerns about immigration levels and populism (see for example Margaret Wente’s Can Canada avoid a populist revolt?).

Kaufmann’s explanation of “Canadian exceptionalism” – the English-French divide, a high-percentage of foreign-born, the lack of a Conservative tabloid press (Toronto Sun?), and labelling as racist those who question current immigration levels – tend to leave out some of the early fundamentals that shaped Canada:

  • a culture of accommodation, often imperfect, between English and French Canada, less so with Indigenous peoples, that required recognition and compromise as basic to Canada;
  • a multiculturalism that developed in response to earlier waves of mainly white and Christian immigration;
  • an approach based on integration, as distinct from assimilation, articulated by the 19 Bi & Bi Commission report on the “other groups.”

And if identity has become the “battle front of the 21st century,” does this not reflect in part the fact solutions to economic issues – precarity, inequality – remain elusive.

I also find tiresome the refrain against “cosmopolitan imperialists” and elites. Most of the people engaged in these debates, including Kaufmann, are by definition part of elites in terms of education, income levels, public profiles and the like:

Populism has arisen virtually everywhere in the West, but remains weak in English Canada.

The election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote, resistance to high immigration in Australia, mounting European nativism and last year’s Quebec election are strong signs that growing centre-right white populism will be tenacious.

It’s often said that people in the U.S. display “American exceptionalism,” the belief they’re uniquely committed to freedom. But there is also a “Canadian exceptionalism,” a deep belief among English Canadians they are uncommonly tolerant and will make a success of multiculturalism when others will not.

A ground-breaking new book by Vancouver-raised political scientist Eric Kaufmann peels back the layers of Canadian exceptionalism while detailing the increasingly tense decline of white populations in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. It places an extra focus on big cosmopolitan cities in which whites are no longer the majority, such as Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

Even though Whiteshift: Population, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities delves into race, culture and identity in ways some will find uncomfortable, the book has attracted supportive reviews across Britain’s vigorous press. It’s being called “insightful,” “valuable,” ”substantial,” “brilliant,” “extraordinarily deep and wide” and far ahead on the immigration discussion.

Whiteshift is bursting with ideas, which synthesize old theories into something altogether novel. They include Kaufmann’s positive argument that declining white populations in the West, to avoid extreme nationalism, will need to embrace what he calls “whiteshift.”

He defines the term as “the turbulent journey from a world of racially homogeneous white majorities to one of racially hybrid majorities.” In other words, Whiteshift envisions a Western world a century from now of predominantly intermarried people who are beige in colour.

But Kaufmann – who is of mixed Latino, Chinese and Jewish ancestry while regularly viewed as white – is not a one-world globalist dreamer, as many say is the case with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Identity has largely replaced economics as the battle front of the 21st century, Kaufmann says. And he understands how many conservative whites are losing confidence in their identity; leading to “a growing unwillingness to indulge the anti-white ideology of the cultural left.”

The Economist agrees, remarking in its review of Whiteshift that nativism is rising because free-market globalism and high immigration have disrupted Western economies and the “culture is dominated by preening elites who not only think they are cleverer than the average person but also that they are more virtuous.”

It is virtually only in the West, says the professor at the University of London, Birkbeck, that the educated feel it necessary to oppose their own culture and celebrate its decline. Although some consider it radical, Kaufmann makes the point that white majorities are an ethnic group whose conservative members have the same normal attachments to group as minority ethnic groups.

Many white people in Europe, of both the right and welfare-state-supporting left, have started resisting the “cosmopolitan imperialists,” he says. Virtually no European politician has dared use the word “multiculturalism” since the 1990s.

But the term still has traction in Canada, where Vancouver pollster Mario Canseco found this month that 62 per cent of Canadians think multiculturalism has been good for the country, while 33% believe it’s been bad.

Because of Canadian exceptionalism, Kaufmann says, English Canada is perhaps the only place left in the Western world where almost all right-wing politicians fear being accused of racism for suggesting immigration levels decline. That’s despite Canadian polls consistently showing roughly four in 10 Canadians think immigration has been a mostly negative force.

French-speaking Quebeckers don’t adhere to the same prohibitions. They recently elected Premier Francois Legault, who this year reduced his province’s immigration rates by 20 per cent in the name of improving integration. Legault even managed to get public support from Trudeau, who has to go along because he can’t afford to alienate francophone voters.

Four of five voters for Brexit ranked immigration as their top concern.

Why has white popularism not taken hold in English Canada, at least not yet?

There are at least three reasons, and one is the English-French language divide. Kaufmann takes seriously the notion that the Conservative party is hemmed in on immigration.

English Canadians who want to reduce immigration, and thus slow the expansion of Asian and other cultures, would normally hope to be supported by the Conservatives. But the party is incapable of allying with like-minded French populists in Quebec, who instead vote for the Bloc Quebecois and Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec.

A second reason Kaufmann believes most Canadians quietly accept rapid ethnic change, which comes from having a population that is 21 per cent foreign born, is that “Anglo-Canadians share the relatively pro-immigration outlook common to all Anglo settler societies.”

Given this outlook, he said, English Canada, unlike Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Britain, “lacks a conservative tabloid press” ready to poke holes in immigration policy.

Kaufmann finds it significant that the highest-profile critics of immigration and multiculturalism in Canada have been people of colour: Writer Neil Bissoondath, academic Salim Mansur and environmentalist David Suzuki. Their minority status, he said, has made it possible for them to “withstand the charge of racism.”

In a revealing chapter, titled Canadian Exceptionalism: Right-wing Populism in the Anglosphere, Kaufmann zeroes in  the battle over foreign capital fueling the housing crisis in Metro Vancouver, where he grew up after being raised in Hong Kong and Japan.

Kaufmann cites how prominent visible minorities, such as Andy Yan, Albert Lo and Ujjal Dosanjh, were able to fight back against claims made by white real-estate developers and politicians that it is “racist” to say that foreign capital, especially from China, has been exacerbating high housing prices.

The Vancouver example leads Kaufmann to the novel idea that, since the Canadian elite generally supports pro-growth, high-immigration thinking, one of the few ways a populist party could emerge in Canada is “if there were a substantial non-white anti-immigration vote or a minority anti-immigration candidate.”

Since that may not happen, Kaufmann predicts the white population of Canada will be in the minority by 2050. Whereas whites in Montreal will account for about seven in 10 people by that date, the proportion will drop to about three in 10 in Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

It could work out, Kaufmann suggests, particularly if immigration policy is changed. But only if English Canadians avoid the kind of hostilities linked with extreme white nationalism. Peace and prosperity will also require people accept that the definition of white is blurring, to include people of mixed races.

Even though regions in which one ethnic group predominates generally experience more unity than those with highly multi-racial societies (such as in Guyana or Belize), Kaufmann foresees a decent chance much of English Canada could end up somewhat like Canada’s largest city.

He envisions a kind of “Toronto-writ-large” across all of English Canada: “A dynamic, low-cohesion, future-oriented society with an attenuated connection to its British and European past.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Why populism hasn’t come to (English) Canada. Yet

Banning the niqab is bigoted and sexist. Or is it? Margaret Wente

Wente plays the contrarian:

If you’re a liberal thinker, you probably know where you stand on Quebec’s controversial religious neutrality bill. You hate it. Banning women in face veils from receiving public services (such as, potentially, riding the bus) is cruel, intolerant, unworkable, discriminatory, sexist, divisive, and an attack on religious freedom. The bill has been denounced by Rachel Notley, Kathleen Wynne, human-rights lawyers, Muslim groups, and nearly every opinion writer in English-speaking Canada. “Quebec’s niqab ban is a shameful sop to nativist voters,” thundered the Toronto Star. (The Globe’s editorialists oppose it, too.)

At least a dozen countries have passed similar laws. Some of them might surprise you. Take Norway – widely hailed as one of the most tolerant nations on Earth. The Norwegian government wants to ban face veils in all schools and universities, for students and instructors alike. “Face-covering garments such as the niqab or burka do not belong in Norwegian schools,” said the acting minister of immigration and integration. “The ability to communicate is a basic value.”

Then there’s Germany, whose leader, Angela Merkel, put out the welcome mat for more than a million immigrants and refugees. But that welcome is conditional. Germany should ban face veils “wherever legally possible,” she said last year. Why? “We do not want any parallel societies, and where they exist we have to tackle them.” France has banned face coverings in public spaces since 2011. In other words, not all countries with these bans are sinkholes of bigotry and oppression.

Can you be a progressive and also favour banning the niqab? Plenty of Quebeckers think so. A whopping 87 per cent of them support the bill, and many say it doesn’t go far enough. Despite the views of the Toronto Star, not all are knuckle-dragging xenophobes from Hérouxville. Yet the English-language commentary has been downright hysterical. According to the critics, women wearing veils will be kicked off buses in the dead of winter, denied life-saving medical treatment, and essentially cut off from life. As Warda Naili told CTV, “I will be a prisoner in my own house.” (Like some of the most ardent champions of the veil, Ms. Naili is a Western convert to Islam.

Niqab bans aren’t likely to spread to the rest of Canada – at least for now. It’s a Quebec thing. It has to do with secularization, the strict separation of church and state, and the obsession with preserving Quebec’s distinct identity. If the doctrine in the rest of Canada is diversity, the doctrine of Quebec is maintaining its distinct culture at all costs. As for religious freedom, it’s worth noting that even in Canada this freedom is not absolute. (We don’t tolerate polygamy, for instance.) Religious rights always compete with others, and even the European Court of Human Rights has agreed that the requirement to show one’s face in public is not unreasonable. As Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard put it, “You speak to me, I speak to you, I see your face, you see mine. It’s part of communications. It’s a question in my mind that is not solely religious, it’s human.”

What’s notable is that the views of the English-language commentariat are out of step not only with Quebeckers but with English Canada as well. Only three in 10 Canadians across the country support the right of women to wear face coverings. Is this proof that anti-Muslim sentiment is dangerously widespread? Or does it simply mean – as I believe – that Canadians want immigrants to fit in?

To be sure, Bill 62 is fraught with politics and hypocrisy. Although it is supposedly aimed at all religions, the only people it will affect are Muslim women. Mr. Couillard would like to be re-elected next year, and this improves his chances. One suspects he wouldn’t be too distressed if the whole thing were tossed out by the courts.

For what it’s worth, my own view is that you shouldn’t pass a law unless you need it – and given the handful of veiled women in Quebec, we don’t need it. But I could be wrong. Recently I talked with Roksana Nazneen, a Muslim from Bangladesh, who describes the growing embrace of the niqab in Quebec and elsewhere as an enormously regressive trend. “It fights integration,” she says. She argues that guilt-ridden feminists just don’t get it. They do not know what the niqab means and they should not be fighting for the right of women to self-oppress. And make no mistake: “The niqab means that men should not hear your voice.”

What kind of Muslim community do we want 10 years from now, she asks? And what will be the consequence of the backlash that would almost certainly be unleashed by the spread of Muslim religious conservatism? These are among the many questions raised by Quebec’s controversial new law. Some of its opponents might be wise to ponder them.

Source: Banning the niqab is bigoted and sexist. Or is it? – The Globe and Mail

How biased are hiring decisions? Wente

Wente does raise a valid question whether blind cvs will necessarily improve representation of women given that there may be some conscious biases in favour of more women  to redress current imbalances (see my earlier Ottawa pilots ‘name-blind’ recruitment to reduce ‘unconscious bias’ in hiring).

One of her better columns as does not present studies that only favour her main argument – a positive bias in favour of women – but also those studies that demonstrate the impact of implicit biases.

That being said, the current federal public service pilot will provide some useful data for the public service in this regard with respect to all four employment equity groups:

Australia did this too. Twenty-one hundred civil servants were asked to assess hypothetical candidates for senior jobs. Half the résumés had identifying information, and half did not. But the results were a shock. Blind hiring made things worse. It turns out that when recruiters had identifying information, they actively discriminated in favour of women and minorities – just as they’d done all along.

“Participants were 2.9 per cent more likely to shortlist female candidates and 3.2 per cent less likely to shortlist male applicants when they were identifiable,” the researchers said. “Minority males were 5.8 per cent more likely to be shortlisted and minority females were 8.6 per cent more likely to be shortlisted. … The positive discrimination was strongest for Indigenous female candidates who were 22.2 per cent more likely to be shortlisted.”

“We anticipated this would have a positive impact on diversity,” Michael Hiscox, the Harvard academic who oversaw the project, said sheepishly. “We found the opposite.” He recommended that the experiment be put on hold.

Privately, plenty of people in government and academia will tell you that hiring bias now favours women, especially in male-dominated fields. In France, researchers found, female applicants for teaching jobs in math and physics at all levels are now preferred over men. (Conversely, men have a slight edge in traditionally feminine fields such as literature.) What’s going on? The researchers concluded that the examiners are probably trying to counteract gender stereotypes.

In another famous (and hotly controversial) study, psychologists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams submitted hundreds of résumés from hypothetical candidates applying for tenure-track positions in STEM fields. They foundthat the women were favoured by a ratio of 2 to 1.

No one would argue that gender discrimination does not exist. But maybe it isn’t the monster problem some folks think it is. And maybe twisting ourselves into pretzels to erase imaginary biases in hiring is a poor idea.

Source: How biased are hiring decisions? – The Globe and Mail

How privileged are you? Take this test to find out – Wente misses some elements

An interesting privilege test by Margaret Wente, that focusses on non-ethnic origin or race factors:

  • Your family income – or your parents’ family income, if you’re young – is $120,000 a year or more. (That’s the approximate cutoff point for the upper one-fifth of earners.)
  • You grew up in a stable, two-parent household. (Children who grow up in stable families do much better than children in lone-parent or divorced families.)
  • Your mother graduated from university. (Maternal education is an important predictor of children’s educational attainment.)
  • Your folks took you to the museum/theatre when you were a kid.
  • Your family helped/will help you with a down payment on a house (or you helped your kids.)
  • You’ve been to Europe more than once.
  • You graduated from a good university. (Bonus point for each graduate degree.)
  • Most of your high-school friends went to good universities.
  • If there are two forks in a place setting, you know which one to use first.
  • You got an internship through family connections (or helped somebody else get one).
  • You can paddle a canoe.
  • You Tweet, or know people who do. (Tweeting is considered an elite activity.)

Wente scored 11 out of 13 (I got 10 out of 13).

Somewhat ironic, given Wente’s Chicago origins, that no racial factors included.

To get at ethnic origin/race factors, my suggestions would be (minus points):

  • Have you been stopped in the last year by the police for no discernible reason?
  • Has your bag/backpack been searched at a store for no apparent reason?
  • When passing airport security, are you regularly pulled aside for more detailed questioning or search?
  • Do people ask you: Where are you from?

Look forward to any other suggestions readers may have.

Source: How privileged are you? Take this test to find out – The Globe and Mail

Angus Reid’s survey actually shows high level of support for our diverse society: Cardozo

Good analysis by Andrew Cardozo:

Much is being made of a new Angus Reid poll on the attitudes of Canadians towards minorities, coming out as it does on the heels of Kellie Leitch’s plan to test immigrants on “anti-Canadian” values. Polling people’s attitudes on diversity is always a good thing as the mood does change from time to time, depending on the issues that face us.

While Angus Reid is a hugely credible polling organization, this poll is somewhere between incomplete and not very informative.

There were two sets of questions on diversity in the poll. Interestingly, the first did not receive coverage—not even in Reid’s own article on the CBC News website—while the second, the more sensational one, garnered all the coverage. Surprising!

Respondents were asked to first comment on: “How well immigrants are integrating into society.” A full 67 per cent said they were satisfied and 33 per cent said they were dissatisfied. (The report does not reveal how many had no opinion, which seems odd. Not even one per cent? But I digress.)

This is a good news story, no? Two to one, Canadians believe immigrants are integrating well. Not many government policies or societal trends get that kind of support.

Sadly, the questions that received all the coverage, perhaps because they align more with Leitch’s narrative in some way, are actually simplistic in the extreme. And further, while the questions did not use the word “multiculturalism,” Reid’s reporting did.

Here are the statements that respondents were asked to comment on: should minorities do more to fit in with mainstream society; and should we do more to encourage cultural diversity with different groups keeping their own customs and languages.

Trouble is, that is not the conundrum that defines multiculturalism. It is perhaps the conundrum that defines segregation. Should minorities fit in or live segregated lives? One or the other. Binary. No combination, no nuance.

Multiculturalism, from its very inception as a government policy in 1971 by one Pierre Trudeau, has been about both integration and cultural retention. Check the Hansard on that. Canadian individuals, immigrants and Canadian born, can generally walk and chew gum at the same time, and they do it all the time.

Interestingly, the poll came out on October 3, during Rosh Hashanah. And you have to think of all the Canadian Jews who were marking the high holiday. Most are able to get time off work and were celebrating the new year with family and friends. Jews are among the most integrated of minority groups in Canada and they contribute in significant ways in virtually every facet of Canadian society, and yet Rosh Hashanah, is widely celebrated.

So which of Angus Reid’s two statements do they fall under: fitting in or keeping their own customs? Or did they walk and chew gum?

One is tempted, on this basis, to dismiss the poll as incomplete or sloppy. But let’s look at a few other examples and try to guess what it is pointing to.

As Reid points out, attitudes change. In the 1990s, wearing a turban in the Armed Forces was a hugely controversial issue, which the Mulroney government settled at great political cost. It is part of what gave rise to the Reform Party. And, of course, today the Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan wears a turban, and, given his mastery of his role in the Canadian Forces, his competence shone through.

Several Jewish MPs celebrated last week.

Several Muslim MPs, like Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, celebrated Eid last month while being a federal minister as did several MPs, including Conservative Ziad Aboultaif and Liberal Ahmed Hussen. Walk and chew gum.

As the world watches the horrors of Hurricane Matthew bearing down on Haiti, former Michaëlle Jean, Canada’s former governor general and now head of La Francophonie, was helping to find aid for the victims of yet another catastrophe to hit her country of origin.

To turn back to Leitch’s issue of anti-Canadian values, one is tempted to ask, are these the anti-Canadian values we should be concerned about?

If there is a conundrum with multiculturalism, it is about the limits of cultural retention and how far we go in reasonable accommodation—a debate that rages on in Quebec. It’s a good discussion to have, but in a free and democratic society, there will rarely be unanimity about where that line exists. It’s about how we make walking and chewing gum at the same time possible. Multiculturalism works when we do both things.

When a practice restricts people’s integration that is a point of discussion like wearing a niqab. But is the solution to legislate what a woman should wear, or is it to find ways in which she will feel comfortable removing it? Or may be the rest of us just get over it?

Leitch gets some support because there is a view that immigrants bring over anti-Canadian values. Whether it was the Irish Fenian who assassinated Thomas D’Arcy McGee in 1868, or the people responsible for the Air India bombing in 1985 or the shooter who killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo in 2014, (Cirillo’s assassin was Canadian born) these people had values that were not in keeping with Canadian values of equality and justice.

It would be helpful if Leitch could be more specific. Yes, we want to root out undesirable elements and want to be clear about basic Canadian values such as gender equality and respect for diversity. At the same time we need to do all we can so we don’t import terrorism or violence.

Likewise, Angus Reid might be more specific with his questions rather than erect headline-catching false conundrum.

Perhaps the newsworthy story is that Canadians believe immigrants should integrate, that’s two to one, and that they generally like the way they are integrating, that’s two to one.

Source: Angus Reid’s survey actually shows high level of support for our diverse society – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

A less nuanced analysis is Margaret Wente’s:

Yet in liberal discourse, any resistance to immigration on any grounds makes you a racist, and any questions about immigration policy are perceived as illegitimate. People get frustrated by that. They’re also frustrated by a narrative that, in their view, only goes one way. They feel they’re constantly being harangued by their betters that it is they who must accommodate the newcomers. No one ever talks about what the newcomers should do to accommodate them.

And so they’re not thrilled when Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s Premier, dons a head scarf to meet with the woman who insisted on her right to wear the niqab during the citizenship ceremony – and then tweets that it’s “an honour.” They are not thrilled when their Prime Minister promotes inclusivity by visiting a mosque where the women have to sit upstairs. They don’t like it when a Muslim boys’ soccer team refuses to play against girls.

Kellie Leitch taps into that sentiment. I don’t doubt for a moment that Canada has its share of racists – but if the Liberals ignore the genuine concerns of people who think accommodation should go both ways, they’re asking for a backlash.

Many progressives (including, I suspect, Mr. Trudeau) hold a romantic view of immigration as a sort of global social-justice project, which obliges us to share our good fortune with as much of the rest of the world as possible, while declaring that every other culture is just as good as ours is.

Thankfully, most Canadians don’t share this woozy notion. They pride themselves on their tolerance. But they’re also hard-headed pragmatists. They think immigration policy should serve our national interests, and that our leaders should not forget it.

 How much diversity do Canadians want? 

Germany’s Post-Cologne Hysteria – The New York Times

Good nuanced commentary by Anna Sauerbrey, an editor on the opinion page of the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel:

… precisely when the country needs a coolheaded conversation about the impact of Germany’s new refugee population, we’re playing musical chairs: Everybody runs for a seat to the left and to the right, afraid to remain in the middle, apparently undecided.

The irony is that the Cologne attacks, by highlighting the issue of refugees and their culture, raise an incredibly important question and at the same time make it almost impossible to have a reasonable conversation about it.

This isn’t the first wave of migrants to postwar Germany, and it’s not the first time that the left and the right have played their respective roles of under- and overestimating the challenges of integration.

The left has long ignored the established correlations between crime and the poverty and poor education that plague refugee communities; the right has long overestimated the link between the refugees’ culture and criminal activity, even when studies show no such link exists (excepting so-called crimes of honor, which are extremely rare).

The real question we should be asking is not whether there is something inherently wrong with the refugees, but whether Germany is doing an effective job of integrating them — and if not, whether something can be done to change that.

None of this, however, fits into a TV sound bite or a tweet. Even if it did, it would probably fail to reach its audience in the heated atmosphere of the moment.

Assumptions have replaced observation, assertion has replaced assessment, and ideology has replaced evidence. With its vision thus distorted, Germany is speeding toward a multicultural society, chased by the mob on the Internet, without any idea of what that society should look like.

We need to regain our sense of balance — or it’s just a question of time until we hit a wall.

Source: Germany’s Post-Cologne Hysteria – The New York Times

Much more nuanced than the Globe’s Margaret Wente:

Germany’s brutal immigrant awakening

Niqab Politics Commentary – Various

Starting with Margaret Wente:

I loathe the niqab. I agree with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that niqabs are “not how we do things here.” A cloth that covers the face is a symbolic rebuke to Western values – especially when the covered woman is walking three steps behind her jeans-and-sneakers-clad husband.

But I also think a woman has the right to choose – even when her choice is offensive to a lot of people. I believe that religious freedom is a cornerstone of Western values. People should have wide latitude to exercise that freedom as they wish, and we shouldn’t constrain them without very good reasons.

So if Zunera Ishaq, a devout Sunni Muslim from Pakistan, wants to wear a veil while she swears the oath of citizenship, let her. Our democracy has survived greater threats than that.

…I despise niqabs. I really, really do. But I despise attacks on people’s freedom even more. There’s a difference between a woman in a veil and a jihadi sawing off a head. We need to remember that.

Why Stephen Harper is playing niqab politics – The Globe and Mail.

Stephen Maher focusses more on the politics:

The best way to counter the online recruiters who prey on those weak-minded souls is not to set up a mosque inquisition, as Mr. Legault proposed, but to build good relations with the imams who are on the front lines of anti-radicalization efforts.

We need these guys to drop a dime when they’re worried that Ahmed has gone off his meds, and they’re less likely to do that if they feel their community is under attack.

This is a good time to lower the temperature and remind Canadians of what draws us together, not constantly point to the things that divide us.

But Mr. Legault, like Mr. Harper, risks bitter defeat in the next election. So both men are playing with fire, trying to capitalize on fear, the most powerful emotion in politics.

And it is working. Recent polls show the Tories’ tough-on-terror message connecting in Ontario and, especially, Quebec, opening a ray of hope for a government that until recently looked doomed.

That’s fair play, but I’m worried that Mr. Harper will add fuel to the fire, linking terrorism to mosques — as he did when he introduced C-51 — inveighing against niqabs in fundraising emails and scaring everyone by warning about “jihadist monsters” at every opportunity.

Mr. Harper’s back is to the wall. If he loses the next election, or even fails to win it convincingly, his career is likely over.

Since oil prices collapsed, the economy is not the political winner it once was, leaving fear as his best issue.

Things could get ugly between now and the election.

  Stephen Maher: Tough talk about Muslims by Canadian politicians is unnecessary  

And Andrew Coyne issues a further warning:

On the surface, the insistence of Obama and other leaders that “this has nothing to do with Islam,” would seem as odd as that of their critics, that it has everything to do with Islam. As David Frum writes on the Atlantic website, “it seems a strange use of authority for an American president to take it upon himself to determine which interpretations of Islam are orthodox and which are heretical.” But there is a strong case for saying such things, even if you don’t believe them — especially if you don’t believe them — precisely in the service of fighting terrorism.

The one thing that could be predicted to cause more Muslims, here and abroad, to believe that violence against the West was justified would be if they were to become convinced that, indeed, there is “a clash of civilizations,” that Islam was under attack, and that they themselves, as practitioners of the religion, were objects of suspicion and hostility. The phenomenon is often observed in other social groups that, rightly or wrongly, feel themselves besieged: they will close ranks, even with those with whom they might otherwise have no sympathy.

That would be a calamitous setback to efforts, largely successful, to win the cooperation of the Muslim community in rooting out the few radicals in their midst. Which takes us to the rhetoric of the Harper government. Merely referring to “Islamic extremism” or “jihadism” would be unobjectionable in itself. But when coupled with recent, needless interventions in such volatile debates as whether the niqab may be worn at citizenship ceremonies, it suggests at best a troubling indifference to the importance of symbols and the need for those in power to go out of their way to reassure those in minority groups that they have not been targeted.

It may be good politics. But they are playing with fire.

Violent extremism or jihadism: The case for watching our language on terror

Lastly, Salim Mansur’s efforts to compare Indian religious and cultural practice restrictions doesn’t work: there is a difference between bigamy, child marriage, concubinage, FGM, which directly impact upon the rights of others or impact on the health of the person, unlike the wearing of a niqab.

The only valid comparison is that with other religious closing and headgear accommodations  (which the niqab is) and other dress code conventions (i.e., one cannot demand government services or attend a citizenship ceremony full or partially naked).

But we need to compare apples with apples, not oranges:

The same week the Federal Court ruled the niqab ban unlawful, India’s Supreme Court ruled that bigamy and polygamy is not protected under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which refers to freedom of conscience and religion. The justices of the Indian Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the appellant, Khursheed Ahmad Khan, in taking a second wife while remaining married to his first wife, violated the civil service regulations that do not permit bigamy and polygamy as part of religious belief. The justices agreed a “bigamous marriage amongst Muslims is neither a religious practice nor a religious belief and certainly not a religious injunction or mandate.”

The relevant point here is that certain practices — such as bigamy or child marriage, concubinage, female genital mutilation, etc. — even when permitted by a religion, need to be distinguished from religious belief as customary practices. In making this appropriate distinction, the Indian courts have ruled, with the Supreme Court in agreement, that what is protected under Article 25 is religious belief, not practices that may run counter to public order, health or morality.

This ruling of the Indian Supreme Court is instructive. India shares with Canada the system of government and democratic traditions handed down from Britain. India is also the world’s third-largest Muslim country after Indonesia and Pakistan. In ruling that bigamy and polygamy are in violation of India’s laws, the courts have defended the rights of women, especially Muslim women, in terms of equality rights, and against Muslim Shariah-based laws that discriminate against them in favour of men.

Canadian courts would be well advised to make a similar and appropriate distinction between religious beliefs and customary practices, and whether any or all customs should be protected under the Charter provision of religious freedom.

Salim Mansur: Defending the niqab ban

The face Canada showed the world – Margaret Wente

Margaret Wente’s cheery piece on what Canada got right, referring to the Hamilton video experiment on attitudes towards Muslims (Hamilton racism social experiment ends with a punch | Toronto Star) and the community efforts to clean up the damage at the Cold Lake Mosque (Volunteers help clean vandalism from Cold Lake mosque):

When I wear the poppy, I sometimes think of my dad and grandfather, who fought so that some day we could live in a nation just like this. But why us? Why are we the lucky ones? How have we managed to escape the racial and ethnic strife that plagues most of the rest of the world?

One reason is that Canada is so new. Almost all of us are immigrants – newcomers ourselves not so long ago. And our dual English-French identities have been a great test of our ability to accommodate our differences without tearing each other to shreds. So far, so good. We’ve learned a lot from that.

Our identity is not defined by blood, or by our sense of destiny. We have no concept of Volk. We’re just folks. We don’t care who you are or where you came from or who or what you worship, as long as you share our good Canadian bourgeois values. Don’t litter. Send your kids to school. Wear a poppy.

We are blessed with a lot of elbow room, and we have borders that are relatively impermeable. No massive waves of refugees and migrants wash up on our shores. We never imported guest workers who we thought would go home, but didn’t.

Unlike Europe, our immigrants come from all corners of the planet. We’ve dodged the problem of large subgroups that self-ghettoize and don’t assimilate. Here, everyone gets thrown together and winds up at Tim Hortons or maybe Starbucks. And the locals are extremely friendly, which means that the whole world wants to come here, so we get our pick. We have created a virtuous circle of tolerance and openness that is rivalled only by Australia, a nation just like ours, only with a better climate and a worse accent.

As my friend and colleague Sheema Khan said of Mr. Albach’s video, “This is the face that Canada is showing to the world.” After two terrorist attacks, people punched out the bigots and took flowers to the mosque. No wonder we’re the envy of the world.

The face Canada showed the world – The Globe and Mail.

Radicalization and the Ottawa Shooting: Weekend Commentary

Weekend news and commentary I found relevant and interesting.

Consistent messaging from a number of political figures and media commentators on the need for more than security approaches in combatting radicalization. Premiers Wynne and Couillard stress the community and societal aspects in Curbing radicalization a community issue: Wynne |  Toronto Sun.

A great deal of speculation on what measures the Government may be considering (beyond the already announced increase in CSIS powers), ranging from Online hate speech could be curtailed under new anti-terror push (ironic, given the Government’s removal of online hate speech from the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to strip the federal human rights commission’s power to investigate such complaints) to greater use of preventive detention in Tories hint at even tougher anti-terror laws. John Ivison thinks the template will be the UK in  Conservatives’ new anti-terror laws likely to mirror ‘immensely controversial’ U.K. legislation.

Stephen Maher sounds a note of caution, considering the Government’s record on privacy, oversight, and transparency, in Harper government’s intelligence agenda a cause for worry.

Interestingly, Benjamin Perrin, formerly of PMO, argues that existing laws are adequate (including the proposed additions to CSIS’ powers)in Our laws are up to the homegrown terror threat, and Ian Brodie, former chief of staff to PM Harper, advocates for an all-party non-partisan approach to improving security on Parliament Hill in Ian Brodie: There is no reason to turn Parliament Hill into an armed fortress.

And as the debate starts, Scott Reid notes that We’ve seen MPs unite, now we need them to be divided to ensure a full discussion and debate about the appropriate responses to the attacks.

Jon Kay discusses how the immediacy of video heightens fear in Did attack on Parliament really change our lives forever? even if incidents and risk are relatively low.

Doug Saunders explores the grey line between ideology and pathology in The lone wolf: Is it ideology or pathology? with both Islamic-inspired and other extremism examples. Margaret Wente dismisses arguments over blowback over intervention in What do we do about the Islamic State fanboys? without the nuance of Saunders with respect to ideology and pathology. Andrew Coyne takes a similar talk, with more nuance, and makes the valid point that We got off relatively lightly this time. We may not be so lucky the next.

Some nice commentary contrasting restrained Canadian and hyperventilated US coverage of the attacks by Dean Obeidallah in To US media Canadian shooter being Muslim ends investigation.

Douglas Todd reports on the Burnaby Mosque which essentially expelled Zahaf-Bibeau given his intolerant views in Is Burnaby mosque a victim of its own openness?

And while there have been a few incidents against Muslims (Islamophobia: the ugly side of the municipal election?), there has also been support for those Muslims or Muslim institutions (Volunteers help clean vandalism from Cold Lake mosque). And within the Muslim community, some strong messages against radicalization during Ottawa Friday prayers The Roots of Radicalizaton and the Education to Prevent It among others.

Radicalization, the Loss of Canadian Innocence and the Need for Perspective

With the two killings this week of Canadian soldiers, one by Martin Couture-Rouleau’s running over soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the other by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and his the attack on the War Memorial and Parliament Hill.

Surreal morning for me as I was downtown for meetings, about 8 blocks away from the Hill, learning about the shootings from TV monitors, along with others glued to TV monitors following developments. Felt very much, albeit on a much smaller scale, when I was in LA during the 911 attacks.

Some common points in recent commentary.

A note of caution on over-reacting and the need to maintain balance between freedom, access, and security. John Ivison: In response to Quebec terror attack we must remember a healthy balance between security and freedom, a point echoed by Andrew Coyne in Andrew Coyne: We can’t stop every little terror attack, so let’s brace ourselves and adapt where he recommends, not “a panicky search for false assurances, nor even defiance, but a collective insouciance.” Martin Regg Cohn praises the Ontario political leaders for keeping to the normal Parliamentary schedule in The democratic show must go on: Cohn.

While there was universal praise, and deservedly so, for Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, both for his quick and efficient handling of the attack as well as his philosophy of keeping Parliament a public space, Michael Den Tandt savages the overall handling of the attack in Michael Den Tandt: Ottawa shooting shows Canadian capital’s utter lack of readiness, and how information was not communicated. Haroon Siddiqui makes similar, but less well argued points, in Killings of two soldiers raise troubling questions: Siddiqui.

Margaret Wente takes the opposite tack, in an almost boosterish tone, contrary to much of the reporting, argues that Canadians will not change and that the attack was handled calmly and without hysteria in  Terrorists don’t have a chance in this country. Joe Warmington of The Toronto Sun takes the opposite tack in Canada will never be the same, as does Ian MacLeod in The Ottawa Citizen, in Analysis: Effects on Ottawa will be lasting and far-reaching (with video).

Also in the Post, which generally has some of the strongest reporting in this area, Tom Blackwell, their health reporter, reports on the “lone wolf” phenomenon and some of the factors that may result in some being open to radicalization in ‘Rhetoric and bluster’: Was attack on soldiers really terrorism, or just the violent act of a disturbed man? The Globe has a good profile on Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the War Memorial and Parliament Hill in Suspected killer in Ottawa shootings had a disturbing side, that reinforces some of these points.

From La Presse, a report on the local mosque in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and what appears to be a very conservative Imam in terms of social teachings but no indication that he preached violence, or whether Couture-Rouleau went to the mosque regularly (seems he was most active on social media) in Un imam controversé à Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Listening to the RCMP outline what they did and what they could do, particularly in the case of Couture-Rouleau (as of writing not as fulsome an account for Zehaf-Bibeau) hard to see that any of the Government’s recent or planned initiatives would have made a difference. The RCMP monitored him, spoke to friends and families who shared their well-founded worries, confiscated his passport but as the RCMP officer at the press conference said, “We couldn’t arrest someone for having radical thoughts, it’s not a crime in Canada.”

Couture-Rouleau, like Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, were both born in Canada. Couture-Rouleau was not a dual-national and would not be subject, had he lived, for citizenship revocation. It is unclear whether Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, given his father was Libyan in origin, would be entitled to Libyan citizenship and thus theoretically subject to revocation.

And while tragedies for the families and friends of the soldiers killed, and (another) reminder that we have extremists among us, both reassuring and worrying that both of these appear to be “lone wolf” attacks rather than groups and more “sophisticated” plans and conspiracies that could result in significantly more casualities.

I tend to be between Wente and Warmington: no, not everything has changed but neither has everything remained the same. Our political leaders, of all stripes, as well as the media and others, will play a role in ensuring, or not, that we retain perspective and balance.