Singh in a bind as NDP must win over Quebecers that support new secularism law

Good column by Patriquin on Singh’s Quebec dilemna:

Were he a teacher in Quebec and not a politician based in Ottawa, Jagmeet Singh would find it difficult to work.

Thanks to Quebec’s “laicity bill,” which became law Sunday, Singh wouldn’t today be able to secure a teaching position with a turban on his head. Had he held this position prior to March 28, the law’s retroactive date of enforcement, he’d be stuck in grandfather-clause purgatory, allowed to wear his turban and kirpan—but lose this right should he be promoted, demoted or transferred to another position. It’s a cruel and confounding position for Singh. As leader of the NDP, he has significant support in Canada’s second-largest province. Yet he couldn’t so much as teach a Grade 4 class in the province, much less join a Quebec police force, guard prisoners in a Quebec jail or be a judge in a Quebec court. He couldn’t even serve as a liquor inspector.

Oddly, the NDP has been remarkably quiet about the demonstrable impingement of its leader’s fundamental rights. The party issued no press release following the judgment. NDP MPs, Quebec and otherwise, were largely and conspicuously silent on the issue. In 2013, the Parti Québécois of the day introduced its “Quebec values charter,” which would have had a similar negative effect on Singh’s ability to work in Quebec. At the time, the NDP called it “state-mandated discrimination,” with then-NDP leader Tom Mulcair vowing to “fight it all the way.” Yet the current incarnation of the NDP met the newly-minted Quebec law with a volley of crickets. There were no promises from the NDP to mount a challenge of the law should it form a government in October. Dissent was limited to Singh himself, who tweeted and otherwise expressed his “sadness” at its passing.

Unfortunately, there is method to the NDP’s silence. Quebec’s new secularism law is an onerous and cynical piece of legislation that tramples on rights secured by both the Canadian and Quebec charter. As a particularly mean-spirited solution for a non-existent problem—that of creeping religiosity in Quebec society—it serves no other purpose than to prop up the nationalist bona fides of Premier François Legault and his Coalition Avenir Québec government. And yet as grievous as it is, the law is remarkably popular amongst the very people Singh and the NDP must court if they wish to have any chance in the looming October election. In short, denouncing Quebec’s law is tantamount to political suicide, for all parties. That silence you hear from the NDP is the noise of political expediency.

How popular is the new law? Nearly three quarters of Quebecers polled believe judges, prosecutors, police and prison guards shouldn’t be allowed to wear religious symbols, according to a Léger Marketing poll for the CAQ government. (Other polls, notably Angus Reid and CROP, reflect similar levels of support.) In fact, according to the Léger poll, nearly 70 per cent of respondents believed the restriction should go even further to include preschool and kindergarten teachers as well. Here, we must acknowledge a bit of political brilliance, however cynical, on the part of Legault. By not including preschool and kindergarten teachers in the religious symbols ban, the premier has sold the law as a demonstration of restraint and compromise. The law “could have gone further,” he said the other day. “There are people who are a little racist and don’t want to see religious symbols anywhere in public.”

The NDP’s relative silence extends to the Conservative Party. While Conservative leader Andrew Scheer gave Quebec’s secularism bill a light spanking last March, the party made no similar overture upon the bill’s passing into law this week. If anything, the Conservative situation in Quebec is even more fraught than that of the NDP: Scheer is courting voters in the province’s exurbs and hinterland, where support for the law is highest (and, not coincidentally, the presence of actual religious minorities is at its lowest.) Scheer is further hampered by another political reality: laws such as the one passed in Quebec have remarkable support in the rest of the country. It is of no coincidence that former prime minister Stephen Harper, with his campaign-era “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line, wasn’t below a bit of Legault-style demagoguery.

And this silence has infected the Liberals as well, albeit to a lesser extent. In 2013, the mere hint of the PQ’s Quebec values charter provoked Justin Trudeau into writing 600 angry words in the Globe and Mail. This time around, it took being asked by a reporter for Justin Trudeau to denounce Quebec’s law.

In keeping relatively quiet on the political excesses of the current Quebec government, perhaps the NDP and others are simply learning from history. At a French-language debate during the 2015 election campaign, NDP leader Mulcair offered by far the loudest critique of Harper’s anti-niqab stance—and the PQ’s values charter by extension. “No one here is pro-niqab. We realize that we live in a society where we must have confidence in the authority of the tribunals, even if the practice is uncomfortable to us,” Mulcair said.

Mulcair’s was a righteous, nuanced and altogether sensible critique of the very type of identity-based politics practised by Harper then and Legault now. It also doomed the NDP, with Mulcair’s support diving at almost the exact moment he uttered the words. No wonder the current crop of federal leaders are so scared to say anything.

Source: Singh in a bind as NDP must win over Quebecers that support new secularism law

Coyne, Patriquin and Furey: On the reversal on asylum seekers

Both Coyne and Patriquin being harshly critical and not appearing to believe that asylum shopping is a serious issue, the Globe and columnists like Furey  appear to be supportive of the government’s change in approach. Starting with Coyne:

Naturally, they put it in an omnibus bill.

Buried deep inside the 392 pages of Bill C-97, the budget implementation bill, is a package of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that would turn decades of Canadian refugee policy on its head.

The changes would disqualify from consideration refugee claimants who had previously made claims in “a country other than Canada.” (Also ineligible: those whose claims had already been rejected in Canada, or who had been granted refugee protection elsewhere.) What is more, this would apply even to those already on our soil, seeking asylum.

Ever since the Supreme Court’s landmark 1985 ruling in Singh v. Canada, refugee claimants under the protection of Canadian law cannot be deported without having their case heard before an independent tribunal — a recognition of the serious, possibly fatal consequences of sending a genuine refugee, with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” back to his country of origin. Under the new policy, the best that those affected could hope for would be an interview with an immigration official, as part of a “preremoval risk assessment.”

All this came as a complete surprise to refugee advocates. The only mention of it in the budget the bill claims to be implementing was this cryptic remark on p. 326: “The government proposes to introduce legislative amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to better manage, discourage and prevent irregular migration.”

They could hardly have guessed what this would turn out to mean. The changes not only go far beyond the existing Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which allows Canada to turn back claimants arriving at official points of entry on our southern border — not once they have already crossed — but would extend it to a number of other countries with whom Canada has immigration “information-sharing” agreements.

Understand: the people whose claims Canada would summarily reject in this fashion would not necessarily have had their claims assessed and rejected by another country – it would be enough that they had made a claim. They would face deportation, what is more, not to the country in which they had earlier made their claim, but to their country of origin, to meet whatever fate awaited them there. All this, without even the right to an independent hearing.

This sort of draconian shift in policy would be shocking coming from any government; among other objections, the courts are almost certain to rule it is a violation of the Charter of Rights. But to find it proposed by the same Liberal government that had long congratulated itself for its commitment to refugee rights, while castigating critics as intolerant, racist and worse, is simply breathtaking.

This is not just the most extraordinary about-face yet — from #WelcomeToCanada to deportations without hearings, in the space of two years — from a government that has made a habit of them. It is a fundamental breach of faith.

“We will restore Canada’s reputation,” the Liberals boasted in the refugees section of their 2015 election platform, “and help more people in need through a program that is safe, secure and humane.”

“Canada once welcomed refugees openly,” it goes on, “but that proud history has faded after a decade of mismanagement under Stephen Harper. We will renew and expand our commitment to helping resettle more refugees, and deliver a refugee program that is safe, secure and humane.”

But that was then, and the refugees that made such useful props for Justin Trudeau in the last election have become an obstacle to his chances in the next, in the face of relentless Tory fear-mongering about the “crisis” on our border. So, over the side they go.

That this was accomplished via yet another mammoth omnibus bill compounds the sense of betrayal. The 2015 Liberal platform also denounced the Harper government for its use of omnibus bills “to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals,” vowing to “bring an end” to “this undemocratic practice.”

When the bill comes to a vote, moreover, Liberal MPs will inevitably be whipped to support it — as a budget bill, after all, it is an automatic confidence matter. This turns yet another Liberal campaign pledge inside out.

The platform had promised that MPs would be free to vote as they pleased on virtually all questions; outside of confidence matters, the whips would be applied only to votes that “implement the Liberal electoral platform” or that touch on “the protections guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” In this case, MPs will be whipped to vote for a bill that contradicts the platform and runs roughshod over Charter guarantees.

Mere hypocrisy or breach of faith, however, would not suffice to condemn the Liberal changes, if they were otherwise well-advised. It would be obtuse to hold a government to the course it had set out on, however disastrous, just for the sake of a foolish consistency. Those Conservatives who are now attacking the Liberals for adopting the very positions for which they had previously attacked the Conservatives – on top of the changes in the omnibus bill, the government was earlier reported to be in negotiations with the United States to extend the Safe Third Country Agreement to the entire border — are entitled, perhaps, to gloat. They are not entitled to claim vindication.

No, what is wrong about the new Liberal policy is not that it is hypocritical, but simply that it is wrong: arbitrary, inhumane, and vastly unnecessary. There is no emergency that could possibly justify rejecting refugee claimants out of hand, solely on the basis of having made a prior claim, — “asylum-shopping,” the Border Security minister, Bill Blair, called it, without apparent sense of shame — still less deporting them without a hearing. The numbers of those crossing the U.S.-Canada border irregularly are falling, not rising.

The emergency, rather, would appear to be in the falling numbers of those telling pollsters they intend to vote Liberal. For what is the risk of sending innocent people to their deaths, when there are marginal seats in peril?

From Patriquin:
As a term, “asylum shopping” is probably worthy of scare quotes. Though it’s not quite as loaded as “chain migration”— a term usually used to inspire fear of an unchecked immigrant invasion — it nonetheless invokes those darker stereotypes often ascribed to migrants. These people aren’t running from an immediate danger, you see. They’re seeking asylum in multiple countries, probing for the weakest point, if only to steal our jobs and harvest the bounty from our social safety net.

“Asylum shopping” didn’t tumble from the lips of Bill Blair, the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister — at least, not entirely. Nonetheless, he was the picture of consternation at the allegedly pervasive practice.

“We don’t want them shopping and making application in multiple countries. What we’re trying to do is to make sure the system is fair and efficient for those who truly need our protection,” Blair said this week. Cracking down on asylum shopping is a key part of the government’s $1.2 billion effort to reduce the number of would-be migrants coming into the country.

Fair enough.

The number of asylum seekers has nearly tripled since 2016, and addressing the issue, or at least further girding the system to deal with its reality, is a certainly a legitimate government goal. The problem is the rhetoric that Blair and others have attached to it. By first politicizing the idea of “asylum shopping,” then quickly promising to do something about it, the Trudeau government has shown how desperation tends to breed rank hypocrisy.

The latter-day Liberals are proof of the axiom that in politics, you inevitably become what you once professed to hate. Imagine the conspicuous indignation that would have emanated from 2015-vintage Liberal Party ranks had the Conservative government cooked up, in the crucible of Stephen Harper’s all-powerful PMO, a plot to try and override the country’s independent judiciary by jettisoning a certain Quebec-based engineering firm from likely legal catastrophe.

And yet in 2019, four years after winning an election by way of promises to do away with such Conservative overindulgences, the Liberals did just this — and through an all-powerful PMO of the type Trudeau himself vowed to dismantle, no less.

Though more visceral a topic, the government’s “asylum shopping” gambit nonetheless comes at the tail end of a similarly tortured ideological climbdown. The 2015-era Liberals chided the Conservative’s apparently heartless response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

“You don’t get to suddenly discover compassion in the middle of an election campaign,” Trudeau said of the Harper government’s reaction to the drowning death of Alan Kurdi, whose tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach.

Trudeau, Trudeau assured us, would do better. And to his great credit, he made good by allowing some 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country. About two years later, he became a notably photogenic counterpoint to Trumpian nativism by welcoming “those fleeing persecution, terror and war” by way of Twitter, just as The Donald was wishing them gone. Conservative criticism on migration was nothing short of “fear mongering,” as Trudeau put it late last year.

Ah, but that was before the churn of the next election cycle and the Liberal government’s increasing desperation in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin fallout, not to mention the corresponding bump in Conservative fortunes. The Trudeau government’s migration bon mots belie a certain truth: the steady tide of asylum seekers from the U.S. has eroded the Canadian welcome mat, according to a comprehensive Angus Reid poll conducted earlier this year.

This enduring and widespread sentiment is directly at odds with the Trudeau government’s pro-migrant spiel, peddled for the last four years. So as we approach the October election, the government has simply changed its tune, from “Canadians will welcome you” and “diversity is strength,” to “fair and efficient” and “asylum shopping.”

For any government, delegitimizing the plight of migrants is crass, bottom-feeder politicking. For the Liberals, whose rise to power was meant to be a rebuke to this kind of thing, it is even worse — particularly considering how asylum shopping isn’t a particularly widespread problem, as the CBC’s Kathleen Harris pointed out this week.

It’s just further evidence that the convictions of the current government ebb and flow with its re-election prospects.

Source: Delegitimizing the plight of migrants is crass, bottom-feeder politicking

From Furey (who no longer appears to be working for the Sun and features regularly with the online True North of former Conservative staffers and candidates):

Finally! The Liberals have done something to deal with the unsustainable influx of people crossing illegally into Canada, mostly at the Roxham Road crossing along the Quebec border.

The data shows that for both 2017 and 2018 there was a near constant flow of approximately 20,000 people per year. It was a troubling figure and one that showed no signs of decreasing. Thankfully the numbers for January and February of 2019 have shown a decrease but there’s no guarantee the numbers won’t rise again.

While refugee advocates wanted to characterize everyone crossing as genuine refugees fleeing war and famine, there was little evidence to support that.

The majority of asylum claimants came from Haiti and Nigeria – two countries that Canadians certainly wouldn’t consider ideal places to live but aren’t facing major wars displacing people and aren’t ravaged by recent natural disasters. All indication was that these were economic migrants – people who simply wanted to move to Canada. You can’t blame them, Canada’s a pretty great country, but there are rules and processes in place to come here and those need to be followed.

For two years, groups like True North, conservative politicians, various pundits and members of the legal community pointed all of this out, how it’s unsustainable and how there needs to be changes, and the Liberal response was to cry “racist” and other nasty labels.

Good luck with that strategy, I’d always thought.

The various polls over the years showed the majority of people didn’t support what was happening at the border. And there was no way they were going to buy into this cynical messaging that opposing legal immigration was somehow a wholesale racist statement. Meanwhile, recent immigrants and others whose family members were still waiting in the legal queue weren’t happy either.

It looks like the Liberals have realized that despite their Social Justice Warrior inclination towards open borders, the rest of the public aren’t going along with it. Maybe because they’re finally clued in or because of the upcoming election, they’ve decided to do something about it.

Buried within the 2019 budget omnibus bill are changes to the asylum system that aim to deny people have had an asylum claim already rejected in the United States (and other safe third countries such as the U.K.) from then going on to make one in Canada.

It’s to prevent what Border Security Minister Bill Blair calls asylum shopping. This means they wouldn’t be placed in the multiyear waiting line, where they receive government assistance while waiting to hear if their claim will be accepted. Instead they’ll more likely be fast-tracked for rejection and removal.

This won’t actually put that big of a dent in the numbers as the statistics show only about 10% of the current illegal crossers had previously applied for asylum in the United States.

It’s rather humorous to now watch as refugee lawyers and activists display their outrage towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, throwing the same sorts of words at him as he previously tossed at others and also threatening legal challenges.

But still, these changes are something and it’s a move in the right direction.

Here are the questions though: Why didn’t they do it sooner? Is this only for election purposes? Will they keep advancing on this file? And was all the name-calling and divisiveness over the past two years worth it?

Source: READ MORE

Martin Patriquin: Outrage over Bye bye India trip skit is misplaced

I agree. There is too much of an “outrage” industry on both right and left, and an apparently inability to understand context and intent:

Comedians are a particularly vulnerable bunch in this time of viral outrage and weaponized conceit. Strip the context, nuance, delivery, message and intent from the schtick of Dave Chapelle, arguably one of the funniest people on the planet, and the resulting transcript would read like the ramblings of either a deranged racist or an unrepentant homophobe — or both, with a soupçon of misogyny to boot.

Judging comedians solely on their onstage words and actions is reductive and misleading, the rough mental equivalent of thinking Christian Bale is actually Batman, or Kate Winslet really tumbled from the Titanic into the North Atlantic in 1912.

Which brings us, somewhat reluctantly, to the most recent Bye bye, Radio-Canada’s comedic send-off of the year that was. The 90-minute show, an enduring institution in this province, generates belly laughs by slaying the year’s sacred cow brigade of politicians, artists, media personalities and vedettes. It is usually funny and sometimes extremely so. And it almost always pisses someone off.

This year, the outrage stemmed from literal sacred cows — or at least cutouts of sacred cows, supposedly located in India, punched by a gorilla with Donald Trump hair. Then the gorilla does the floss. Before this, Justin Trudeau smoked a joint and ventured into an Indian-themed dreamscape where he donned a Kurta and danced a lazy Bollywood-ish boogie amid other costumed dancers.

Again, explaining in print a joke that aired just over a week ago is a lesson in absurdity. Equally absurd were the complaints resulting from the skit, which came within the first days of 2019. “It’s not the first time I’m experiencing some sort of prejudice or racism. I see it as racism,” dancer Ashwin Nair told Global News. “The way the actor playing Trudeau was dancing was very mocking.”

So, too, was the sacred cow bit and the part where Trudeau, as a snake charmer, coaxed gas pumps from woven baskets, which fellow dancer Ina Bhowmick categorized as “very insulting” and “a mockery of an ancient tradition.” The outrage continues to percolate online as I write these words.

This outrage is understandable only if the critics had divorced the skit of its intent — which, in the world of comedy, is the most important bit. It would have been one thing had the Bye bye writers actually been satirizing India, but they weren’t. It’s a bit tedious to have to explain this, but the skit’s intent wasn’t to mock Indian culture, but to pillory Trudeau’s own co-opting of it for political purposes.

In February, Trudeau travelled to India for a trade mission. While there, he made a very conspicuous show of embracing Indian culture, complete with frequent wardrobe changes, public making of chapati flatbread and Namaste prayer greetings en famille alongside his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and their kids.

It was the cringeworthy worst of Trudeau: a cultural dilettante flouncing about a country in clothes that clearly weren’t his in a tone-deaf stab at worldliness. The trip seemed to indicate that Trudeau has a somewhat simplistic take on multiculturalism, in which individual cultures can be boiled down to the clothes on their bodies and the food in their mouths. Coincidentally or not, the Indian-Canadian diaspora constitutes an important voting bloc for the Liberal Party of Canada.

In baseball, they call this sort of easy pitch a meatball. The Bye bye writers hit it out of the park in exactly two minutes and 29 seconds.

Claiming her feelings were hurt by the skit, Bhowmick, who teaches Bollywood dance, says she is considering filing a complaint with the CRTC, the body that oversees Radio-Canada and other broadcast media entities. It’s her right, and I hope she receives a fair hearing should she go through with it.

I also hope that hurt feelings and misplaced outrage aren’t the death knell of good satire in this province.

Source: Martin Patriquin: Outrage over Bye bye India trip skit is misplaced

Quebec’s cultural milieu demonstrates its utter hypocrisy in defending SLĀV

Martin Patriquin in another of his controversial posts, a bit over the top but with an insightful closing paragraph:

In Quebec lore, few historical events remain as damaging as La Conquête. When British general James Wolfe defeated his French counterpart Louis-Joseph de Montcalm at the Plains of Abraham in 1759, it precipitated not just the end of French power in North America, it also birthed the narrative of the Québécois as a conquered people, living in virtual enslavement under a foreign power.

Quebec directors, keenly aware of the its historical trauma, have largely eschewed from committing La Conquête (The Conquest) to film or the stage.

So the fact that Quebec stage director Robert Lepage could depict on stage someone else’s infinitely more enduring wound — the one of actual slavery — is indicative of his power and sway over Quebec’s cultural milieu. That he would do so with a nearly all-white cast, then scream censorship when the ensuing show is cancelled, shows how utterly hypocritical and disconnected from reality this milieu remains.

Lepage’s SLĀV, which was to have a two-week run at Montreal’s Théâtre du nouveau monde, is a pastiche of slave songs reworked and sung primarily by Quebec singer Betty Bonifassi. The source material is drawn entirely from the figurative works of American slaves; songs such as “Chain Song” were sung to keep time and avoid the master’s whip. SLĀV’s aesthetic is similarly drawn for the experience of black slaves, right down to the slave boat set pieces and gritty picture of train tracks on the promotional materials.

Despite the subject material, SLĀV featured only a smattering of black skin, with white actors in the principal roles — Bonifassi included. Protests erupted outside the venue. Musician Moses Sumney cancelled his gig at Montreal’s Jazz Festival, SLĀV’s sponsor. Organizers then nixed the Montreal run of the production.

Several French-speaking pundits frothed at the mouth, as if on cue. “We live in a world subjected to the emotional tyranny of certain crybaby minorities who constantly play the victim,” sniffed Journal de Montréal’s Mathieu Bock-Côté. Parti Québécois culture critic Pascal Bérubé called it “a defeat for artistic liberty.” For his part, Lepage delivered his ire via press release, claiming to have been “muzzled” and a victim of “intolerant speech.”

Lepage and his defenders have nothing if not a taste for hyperbole and sensitivity to the pinprick of real or perceived slights. In defending a demonstrable abuse of history, they are also hypocrites.

After all, Quebec is a land where history isn’t just alive, it screams. La Conquête is taught as a mantra in its schools — as is the Quiet Revolution, in which the Québécois wrestled from underneath the thumb of the English some 300 years later. Its language laws are a bulwark against the rising English seas on its borders, ensuring the survival of the French language. If the more than 350 years since La Conquête has shown anything, it’s Quebec’s collective will to keep its own folklore intact.

Over the years, this has led to unspoken rules and near-satiric levels of self-regard. The Canadiens, Stanley Cup-less for 25 years, still cannot avail itself of a unilingual English coach. Pundits and columnists, Bock-Côté very much included, consistently bemoan the lack of Quebecois players on the team, as well as the English music blared at the Bell Centre during games. (Thankfully, this last fit of pique put an end to U2’s “Vertigo” as the Habs’ go-to goal song.)

Protesters staged vigils outside La Caisse de dépôt headquarters when the province’s pension fund hired Michael Sabia, its first English president. A few months ago, provincial politicians passed a unanimous motion urging merchants to cease using “Bonjour/Hi” when greeting a customer. And before he turned his attention to the cancellation of SLĀV, the PQ’s Bérubé was busy decrying a new law allowing for personalized license plates in the province. Such things would violate Quebec’s French language charter if they display English words, Bérubé said.

As with slavery for America’s Black population, La Conquête sits at the headwaters of Quebec’s modern history, shaping its people and fuelling its continued ire. Trifling with it is fraught, if not outright dangerous; Robert Lepage, who isn’t used to anything but public adoration, has certainly learned as much. One can only imagine how he or his fellow defenders of Quebec history would react if an imagining of La Conquête were cast with an English-speaking ensemble — or if this cast was almost entirely black.

Source: Quebec’s cultural milieu demonstrates its utter hypocrisy in defending SLĀV

The year since the mosque shooting has made amnesiacs out of Quebec’s political class: Martin Patriquin

Another reminder by Patriquin of one of convenient forgetfulness:

On the morning of Jan. 31, 2017, with camera in hand, I walked into the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. Less than 48 hours before, a gunman had walked into the centre, killing six and injuring 19. Once the police had finished their work, mosque administrators opened the doors to journalists, if only to show firsthand the often-visceral consequences of unchecked hatred and ignorance.

It was like the aftermath of war. Men and women parishioners wandered around, dazed and weeping. Bullets, dozens of them, had splintered drywall and shattered glass. And blood was everywhere: on the carpet and prayer rugs, on the Linoleum floor outside the main room, caking the stairs to the basement and circling a storage closet drain. It smeared windows and pooled in sinks. I left with it on my boots.

‘Senseless violence’

The province’s political leaders were immediately and appropriately sombre. Quebecers “must avoid words and gestures that separate, divide and attract hate,” said Premier Philippe Couillard. François Legault, leader of the conservative Coalition Avenir Québec, expressed his solidarity in the face of “senseless violence” with Quebec’s Muslim community. Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée said the most by stating the obvious. “It’s not easy to be a Muslim in the 21st century,” he told reporters.

If time weakens emotions and fades memories, the year since the shooting has made amnesiacs out of Quebec’s political class. Last week, the National Council of Canadian Muslims asked the federal government to designate Jan. 29 as a national day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia. In Quebec, the idea of questioning exactly why the shooting took place was largely met with shrugs or worse.

Both the PQ and the CAQ quickly opposed such a thing. “I think we’ve debated the divisions surrounding the presence of religion enough in Quebec,” PQ MNA Agnès Maltais told Le Devoir. The governing Liberals, who harvest the vast majority of the province’s Muslim vote come election day, utterly waffled on the idea.

Once aghast at the many Muslim victims who had done nothing but gather for prayers, these politicians now declared the deliberate targeting of Muslims passé — an isolated incident perpetuated by a crazy man. “Quebecers are open and welcoming, they are not Islamophobic,” said a CAQ spokesperson. (Only Québec solidaire, the Montreal-centric lefty redoubt, came out in favour of the NCCM proposal.)

Clearly, the amnesia stretches beyond the last year. On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lépine walked into Montreal’s École Polytechnique and killed 14 women before turning his gun on himself. Like Alexandre Bissonnette, the man currently on trial for last year’s mosque massacre, Lépine was more than just a crazy man with a gun. He harboured a deep resentment of women, which he weaponized and made homicidal in the classrooms and corridors of Polytechnique.

The Polytechnique shootings sparked a societal debate in the province about gender, feminism and the extent of institutional misogyny in Quebec society, purportedly one of the more equalitarian in the country. It was a painful but wholly necessary exercise, one commemorated by the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

At first glance, it might be difficult to see why most Quebec politicians are ambivalent at best about a similar exercise for Muslims in Quebec and beyond. Lépine blamed feminists for his problems. Bissonnette left an online trail of anti-Muslim rhetoric before the mosque shootings. And as with Polytechnique 28 years earlier, the mosque shootings were but the bloodiest example of institutional enmity against an identifiable group.

Crimes targeting Muslims

Police-reported hate crimes against Muslims in Canada tripled between 2012 and 2015, according to Statistics Canada. In Quebec City, crimes targeting Muslims have doubled since the mosque shootings, according to the city’s police chief.

Apart from being alarming, such statistics are fodder for Muslim extremists, who use society-wide anti-Muslim animus as a recruiting tool. If this is the case, these extremists have a veritable wellspring of recruiting material in Quebec City’s many populist (and enduringly popular) radio stations, which — with a few notable exceptions — remain largely anti-Muslim and anti-immigration a year after the mosque shootings.

A week after the deadly shooting at a mosque, hundreds took to the streets of Quebec City to honour the victims. 1:54

For its politicians, perhaps it’s less about amnesia than Quebec’s own brand of crass identity politics. The three main political parties are locked in a battle for the hearts and votes of Quebec’s lily-white, lapsed Catholic hinterland in Quebec City and beyond — everywhere, it seems, save for Montreal. The dynamics are such that even the Liberals, who have a lock on the non-Francophone vote, can demonize Montreal’s multicultural reality.

In 2013, the PQ government attempted to ban “conspicuous” religious symbols from the bodies of anyone drawing a government paycheque. Though it failed, the ensuing Liberal government last year passed a ban on face coverings for anyone giving or receiving a government service. Only Québec solidaire protested the law’s blatant targeting of Quebec’s Muslim minority. Everyone else said it didn’t go far enough.

A year ago, these very politicians professed shock and sadness at a murderous hate crime perpetrated on their watch. Demonstrably, as Quebec approaches a fall election, political reality has pushed this emotion aside. Maybe they didn’t forget the tragedy. Maybe they just don’t want to be reminded of the reasons behind it.

via The year since the mosque shooting has made amnesiacs out of Quebec’s political class | CBC News

The cynical roots of Rempel’s female genital mutilation crusade – iPolitics

Martin Patriquin on Michelle Rempel’s raising the issue of FGM and its inclusion or not in the revision of the Discover Canada citizenship guide:

The procedure by which a woman’s clitoris is surgically removed is usually performed without anesthesia and in unsanitary conditions. Unnecessary, retrograde and associated with a host of physical ailments, the surgery also can saddle a woman with a lifetime of psychological issues.

The very purpose of the surgery — to deprive a woman of sexual pleasure — is religiosity at its worst. Only a monster would support such a thing.

A monster — or the Liberal government, according to the blinkered thinking of Conservative MP Michelle Rempel. She seems to believe that the 23rd prime minister of Canada, along with its 20th immigration minister, are in favour of the practice.

Why? Because the Liberal government (she suggests) plans to remove from the pending new citizenship guide a reference to female genital mutilation, which is listed among other “barbaric cultural practices,” including honour killings and forced marriage.

“Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws,” the current guide helpfully points out.

In fact, ‘plans to remove’ is too strong a statement, as the Liberals have yet to release the new citizenship guide, which newcomers use to study for the citizenship test. Nor have the Liberals said that the reference would be excised from the guide, despite the leak of a draft copy this summer that didn’t include it. Whenever he is asked about it, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen typically spouts the words “consultation” and “stakeholders” ad absurdum.

Rempel, who serves as the party’s shadow minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, sees something altogether nefarious in all this bureaucratese. And should the Liberals indeed remove the mention of female genital mutilation, it will be a “tacit message to people that perhaps the Canadian government is OK with it,” Rempel recently said during a radio interview.

open quote 761b1bRempel’s line of questioning strongly suggested Hussen was a cypher, using his position to foist the practice of ritual mutilation on an unsuspecting Canadian public.

So, there you have it. Canada’s current government is in favour of the forced, ritual removal of a part of a woman’s anatomy, according to the Official Opposition. To be clear, Rempel says she doesn’t know why the Liberal government would be gung ho on such a thing. But that hasn’t stopped her from speculating — on the record.

During a recent parliamentary committee hearing, Rempel lobbed loaded questions at Hussen, the apparent goal of which was to suggest the Prime Minister’s Office had asked for the reference to be removed. After Hussen said the PMO hadn’t instructed him to do anything, Rempel aimed for the jugular — or rather, below the belt. “What is your personal view?” Rempel asked Hussen, before the committee chair mercifully cut her off.

Hussen hails from Somalia, where the rate of female genital mutilation is the highest in the world, according to UNICEF. He is a refugee who fled war and strife to become a Canadian citizen and eventually a federal cabinet minister. Rempel’s line of questioning strongly suggested he was a cypher, using his position to foist the practice of ritual mutilation on an unsuspecting Canadian public.

The reference to female genital mutilation in the citizenship guide is similarly loaded. Telling potential citizens that cutting off another person’s body parts is illegal and will be punished is … redundant. Worse still, the inference is clear, and is aimed squarely at a certain subset of would-be Canadian citizens: Muslims.

Not coincidentally, female genital mutilation is carried out in roughly 30 countries, nearly all of them in Africa and nearly all predominantly Muslim. The inclusion of the phrase in the 2011 citizenship guide, much like the Conservative’s “barbaric cultural practices hotline” gambit during the 2015 election, is the stuff of cynical wedge politics meant to leverage revulsion against an identifiable religious group.

It conveniently ignores the fact that immigrants and refugees often flee their countries of origin specifically because of such practices. And it vastly overstates the scope of the problem in Canada.

As in Europe, instances of genital mutilation in this country remain isolated tragedies, and often come to light as a result of arrests. Moreover, the rate of female genital mutilation among those 30 countries has decreased by 30 per cent since 1985, according to UNICEF.

Meanwhile, other types of crimes in Canada are far more common. There were 1,409 police reported hate crimes in 2016 — an increase of 20 per cent since 2013. The homicide rate has also increased by 20 per cent in that time period. There were over 220,000 assaults across the country in 2016, and roughly 159,000 instances of breaking and entering.

One wonders why Rempel isn’t pushing the federal government to remind potential citizens that murder, assault, thievery and race-based aggression are illegal in this country and will be punished. Because it’s obvious, perhaps?

via The cynical roots of Rempel’s female genital mutilation crusade – iPolitics

Failing Quebec’s Muslims – The New York Times

Patriquin in the NYTimes on Quebec’s ongoing debates:

But the trivialization of anti-Muslim crime and the outright demonization of Muslims, so common on Quebec City’s airwaves, contribute to a poisonous political climate for Muslims across the province.

Quebec’s political class has been embroiled in a decade-long obsession over the place for the province’s religious minorities in society. Because the discussion has focused largely on the Muslim veil, the effect has been further social and economic shunning of Muslims.

Quebec’s National Assembly is debating a bill that would compel much of the public service work force to keep their faces uncovered. The bill, which will probably be approved, comes just over three years after the previous Parti Québécois government tried to pass the Quebec Charter of Values, a more restrictive law that would have banned the wearing of all religious symbols by anyone drawing a provincial government paycheck.

This debate has only grown more intense. Seemingly inconsequential requests — as when, in 2007, a Muslim group asked for pork-free baked beans and a prayer room for a private retreat at one of Quebec’s many “sugar shacks,” where maple syrup is made and feasted upon — have been taken as assaults on Quebec’s vaunted secularism. More recently, the right-of-center Coalition Avenir Québec party said it would seek to ban the “burkini,” the body covering swimsuit worn by some Muslim women, from Quebec beaches. (The party eventually backed down, admitting that such a ban would be difficult to enforce.)

On paper, at least, the Muslims here are well suited for Quebec. Many of them are from North Africa, and are well versed in French, Quebec’s official language. They tend to be well-educated and have large families — a boon for a province with a low birthrate and an aging population.

Yet integrating into society has remained a stubborn problem. Quebec has the highest unemployment rate among recent immigrants to the country, just over 15 percent, nearly four percentage points higher than the national average, according to census data.

There are several reasons behind this high unemployment rate. Roughly 75 percent of Quebec’s immigrant population settles in Montreal, an already competitive job market. The province’s unions and professional organizations have been particularly reluctant to credit job experience at foreign companies, or even to recognize degrees earned at foreign universities. One of the mosque shooting victims, Aboubaker Thabti, was trained as a pharmacist in his native Tunisia. A married father of two, he was working at a chicken slaughterhouse at the time of his death.

The province’s government has promised that remedies are on the way. Last year, the governing Liberals introduced a bill that would streamline the recognition of foreign university degrees and compel professional organizations to more readily accept applicants from non-Canadian institutions. Other provinces have instituted such measures, with varying degrees of success. In Ontario, where most of the country’s immigrants settle, there are still far too many professionals driving cabs and delivering food.

Then there is the thorny issue of who, exactly, is a Quebecer. In the job market, there remains a preference for what is known as “pure laine” Quebecers. The expression — literally “pure wool” — denotes anyone with a Québécois last name and the appropriate skin tone.

“Unfortunately, you’re more likely to get a good job if your name is Lachance than if it’s Hamad,” said Tania Longpré, a researcher and French teacher in Montreal. “The key to integration is the ability to contribute to the economy. Quebec only loses when its professionals are forced to cut chickens.”

Mr. Duhaime, the radio host, has remained largely unrepentant in the wake of the mosque shooting, at one point blaming envious rivals for taking his words out of context. Others have been more contrite.

Sylvain Bouchard, a popular morning radio man, said that he’d failed in his duty to invite members of the city’s Muslim community to his show. “Muslims here are pacifist,” he said.

It was an unexpected show of regret in a medium known for its hot takes and big egos. If only words were the cause, and not just a symptom, of the problem.

Identity politics returns to Quebec: Patriquin

Martin Patriquin’s balanced take on Quebec’s Bill C-62 (banning face covering when providing or receiving public services):

Quebec is home to a majority population of about 6.6 million French speakers, where about three-quarters of the 50,000 immigrants who arrive here every year settle in the region of Montreal. The city is multicultural and multilingual. The rest of the province is largely white and French.

The populism resulting from this unique demographic circumstance, which surfaced in the 2007 election campaign, had a distinctly Trumpian narrative to it. To wit: the political elites in Quebec City were corrupt and out of touch. Immigration had turned Montreal into a Babylonian hellhole, and threatened to do the same to the hinterland. By throwing out the first and radically curtailing the second, Quebec would be . . . well, it would be great again.

Two political parties, first the right-of-centre Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) and then the Parti Québécois, attempted to harness this resentment. Both failed miserably. The ADQ ceased existing in 2012, while the PQ suffered one of the worst defeats in its history in 2014.

Still, issues of immigration and religion remain a stubborn constant in Quebec politics. Both the PQ and the Coalition Avenir Québec, the successor to the ADQ, have introduced plans to cut immigration levels. Both have equated the rise in immigration under successive Liberal governments to the decline of French in the province—a contention disproved by several recent Quebec government studies.

PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée said burqas should be banned before “a jihadist uses one to hide his movements.” The CAQ recently ran an advertisement suggesting the chador would become commonplace in Quebec classrooms should either the Liberals or the PQ form the next government. (In truth, body-covering Muslim garb is about as rare in Quebec as Maple Leafs fans.)

Yet despite all this rhetoric over the last 10 years, Quebec remains a comparatively welcoming province. At 3.2 per 100,000, police-reported hate crimes in the province are below the national average of 3.7—and well below Ontario’s average of 4.8, according to the most recent Statistics Canada data.

It is in the crucible of the debate that the province has developed guidelines for so-called “reasonable accommodations” of religious and cultural practices. In 2017, Quebec’s National Assembly will vote on Bill 62, which would compel anyone giving or receiving a public service to do so with their face uncovered—unless the temperature, not religion, dictates otherwise. It is the second time in six years that the province has attempted to pass such a thing.

The bill has its critics, and will almost certainly be the subject to a court challenge should it become law. Yet in limiting its reach to the public service, the legislation strikes a balance between religious freedom and state religious neutrality. (Such is decidedly not the case in France, where the very act of wearing a religious face covering in public is illegal.) The final vote on Bill 62 will take place outside the context of an election campaign, when instances of chest-thumping vitriol tend to be lower. The optimist hopes cooler heads will prevail.

While America is hardly new to the caustic politics of race and identity, it raced to new lows during the last presidential campaign. Trump’s victory has invigorated populist movements around the globe; suddenly, the world is awash in worry over immigration and religion.

In Quebec, this sort of thing is old hat. Long the outlier on the identity front in Canada, Quebec’s take on matters of religion and immigration suddenly seem sensible, even desirable, in a world of border walls and Muslim bans.

A short history of scapegoating Muslims in Quebec: Martin Patriquin

caq-adGood piece by Patriquin:

We are midway through Quebec’s election cycle, and predicable things are happening. Opposition parties begin to stake out positions on key issues, the importance of which are no doubt polled, focused grouped and otherwise scientifically developed. The most recent efforts of the Coalition Avenir Québec, the province’s second opposition party, can be seen in the charming advertisement above.

“Couillard and Lisée,” it reads, referring to Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard and Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée, “[are] in favour of the chador for teachers in our schools.”

The ad has a stunned and/or befuddled-looking Couillard and Lisée staring at a woman wearing the Muslim garb. The message, in case it hasn’t yet hit you over the head, is that should you vote for either the Liberals or the PQ, your children will be put under the spell of a cadre of evil-looking Muslim women. Vote CAQ, and teachers will remain uncovered (and probably lily white, for that matter.)

It’s gross stuff, of course. It’s also crafty as hell. Both the PQ and the governing Liberals have said that anyone working for the state must do so with their faces uncovered “for security or identification reasons”, as a proposed Liberal law states. Because the chador wearer’s face remains uncovered, it wouldn’t fall under this stipulation. Ergo, so the intentionally blinkered CAQ reasoning goes, the Liberals (and the PQ, which will likely support the proposed law) much be in favour of the chador.

As gross as it is, the most recent CAQ gambit is hardly the first time a party has attempted to make political hay on the backs of Muslim women and other religious minorities. Who can forget this gem, from 2013?

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This was the so-called charter of Quebec values, the Parti Québécois’s electoral gambit leading up to the 2014 election. In many ways it is more offensive than the CAQ advertisement. The above image was part of a $2-million ad campaign for a bill introduced by an actual minister that would have been made law had the PQ won the 2014 election. The PQ didn’t win, but it wasn’t for lack of scraping the bottom of the barrel.

During the campaign, the party trotted out Janette Bertrand, a favoured vedette of the very Baby Boomers the PQ wished to recruit, to press flesh and insult minorities. Muslim doctors, she opined, allowed women to “die faster.” Swarthy men had taken over her swimming pool for religious reasons and kicked her out, depriving her of her ability to do aqua-gym exercises. “That’s why we need the charter,” she said. (I’m not making this up.)

Politics, not a sense of shame, caused the PQ to back away from the charter. It has just announced its “resolute, balanced and responsible approach” to Quebec identity that will see the party “build a better dialogue between its parliamentary wing and cultural communities.”

Yet PQ leader Lisée himself has hardly gone all Kumbaya—he’s just changed opinions once again. In 2013, taking great umbrage in something I wrote, Lisée wrote that the PQ’s charter could have flowed from the pen of Thomas Jefferson. Less than a year and one bruising electoral loss later, Lisée said he wouldn’t have supported the charter after all. About two months ago, he said that burqas must be banned “before a jihadist uses one to hide his movements.” Today, he reneged on the comment, saying it was wasn’t his best line. Translation: Lisée was all for scapegoating religious minorities before he was against it—and he may well be for it again, depending on how things go.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this pungent example of immigrant-baiting in Quebec.

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This is an election sign from the 2008 campaign of the ADQ, the precursor to the CAQ. “Decrease of the French language in Montreal,” it reads. “The track record of the PQ and Liberals: a 22 per cent increase in immigration. The ADQ’s solution: a natalist political plan and a freeze of immigration levels.”

By equating the supposed loss of French in Montreal with the increase in immigration, we have a major political party, the province’s official opposition at the time, scapegoating immigrants not for how they may dress but for what tumbles out of their mouths.

At the time, the PQ denounced the campaign, calling it worthy of France’s hard right Front National. Five years later, the PQ itself introduced the charter—supported by none other than Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

Chutzpah is a great word.

Why the PQ isn’t so eager to celebrate the Brexit vote: Martin Patriquin

Worth reading – some uncomfortable truths by Patriquin:

First, there’s history. Britain has long been the subject of fevered nationalist nightmares, and the antagonist in Quebec’s narrative of subjugation and suffering. There are real, live human beings in the province who believe this country remains Britain’s useful idiot in the latter’s war with France, fought nearly 260 years ago. Most Quebec nationalists have dialed back on the lingo since the days of White Niggers of America. But in the nationalist mindset, the idea that Britain might be slave to anything is absurd at best and an insult at worst.

Second, there’s demographics. Several polls foundsupport for the “Yes” side in the 2014 Scottish referendum to be highest among younger age brackets. The ruling Scottish Nationalist Party was favourable to increased immigration, and a sizeable swath of Scotland’s cultural communities supported exiting the U.K.

Scottish nationalism was young, inclusive, and above all relevant to every facet of society. For the PQ, this example was worth celebrating because it was what the Parti Québecois used to be, and what it could aspire to.

The Leave campaign was a reflection of what the Parti Québécois has become. As the Financial Times (amongothers) demonstrated, the biggest support for the Leave campaign came from older, less-educated rural voters. In the 2014 election, the PQ attempted to target this very demographic in Quebec with its so-called “Quebec values charter,” which aimed to strip religious symbols from the heads, necks and lapels of anyone receiving a government paycheque.

The PQ suffered the worst electoral drubbing in its history, and has spent much of the last two years trying to forget the failed experiment. Endorsing the successful Leave campaign would only remind people of nationalism’s darker impulses.

Lastly, there is the gong show that is post-Brexit U.K. The PQ has long suggested, as the Leave campaign did repeatedly throughout the campaign, that separation would be a painless affair. It hasn’t been. Britain’s credit rating has been downgraded, its economy sent into a tailspin; billions of dollars of capital have been wiped out.

Even if this is a temporary hiccup, there remains the social factor. During the campaign, a man shot Labour MP Jo Cox dead on the street while yelling “Britain First.” Reports of hate crimes increased by 57 per cent in the 36 hours following the Brexit vote, according to Britain’s National Police Chiefs’ Council. And while this too may be another of Britain’s temporary miseries, history suggests racial scapegoating only increases in times of economic strife.

No wonder the PQ has kept mostly quiet. Britain’s Leave campaign is a win it doesn’t need.

Source: Why the PQ isn’t so eager to celebrate the Brexit vote