‘Words are no longer enough’: Muslim group releases 60 calls to action ahead of National Summit on Islamophobia

Of note. Summits are often short-term political events to respond to community and raise broader awareness, providing platforms for organizations and political leaders. More substantive approaches involve more time and preparation than a one-day summit on the eve of an election, which runs the risk of being more virtue signalling than substantive.

And the risk of separate summits for Islamophobia and antisemitism is that the focus on the particular communities distracts from the fundamental commonalities of all groups that experience prejudice, bias and discrimination:

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has released a list of policy recommendations for federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada to tackle violent and systemic forms of Islamophobia. 

Among the 60 policy recommendations are calls for the federal government to create an anti-Islamophobia strategy by the end of the year, for provincial Ministries of Education to develop localized strategies to address anti-Muslim sentiment, and for municipalities to invest in alternative forms of policing to combat increasing harassment and violence against Muslims.

The NCCM is also calling on governments to expand legislation to dismantle white supremacist groups in Canada, to challenge Bill 21 in Quebec, and to provide resources to empower Muslim Canadians to tell their own stories.

The 60 calls to action will be presented at the National Summit on Islamophobia, which will be hosted by the federal government on July 22. A National Summit on anti-Semitism will be held on July 21.

“These summits will bring together a diverse group of community and political leaders, academics, activists, and members with intersectional identities within these communities,” according to a statement by Bardish Chagger, minister of diversity, inclusion and youth of Canada. 

On its website, the NCCM says it is an independent and non-partisan organization “that protects Canadian human rights and civil liberties, challenges discrimination and Islamophobia, builds mutual understanding, and advocates for the public concerns of Canadian Muslims.”

For Mustafa Farooq, the CEO of NCCM, the only way to measure the success for the upcoming summit will be whether action is taken or commitments are made in regards to the 60 calls to action and recommendations from other groups. Farooq says the NCCM will release an updated document following the summit to record any commitments made by governments and track any agreed-upon timelines. 

“This is not about getting together to talk about best practices,” he told the Star. “This is about committing to action.”

Thursday’s summit comes in the wake of the deadly June attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario, along with a steep rise in targeted hate crimes against Muslims across the country. According to the NCCM, more Muslims have been killed in targeted hate attacks in Canada than any other G-7 country in the past five years because of Islamophobia. In Alberta alone, at least nine attacks have been reported against Muslim women, most of them Black and wearing a hijab, since December.

On June 11, following calls from the Muslim community and a petition from the NCCM, the House of Commons gave unanimous consent to an NDP motion to convene an emergency summit on Islamophobia. The motion also called on leaders from all levels of government to “urgently change policy to prevent another attack targeting Canadian Muslims.”

Following the motion, the NCCM launched consultations with Canadian Muslims from coast to coast, in search of tangible policy solutions.

“Canada doesn’t have the appropriate infrastructure to challenge Islamophobia,” Farooq told the Star. “There isn’t a single body of governance in this country that is dedicated to fighting Islamophobia. This despite the fact that the impacts of Islamophobia have resulted in the worst attack on a religious institution in modern Canadian history.”

Thus, an overarching theme of the NCCM’s calls to action is the need to institutionalize the fight against anti-Muslim sentiment. This includes the creation of an Office of the Special Envoy on Islamophobia. 

“This position needs to work with various ministries to inform policy, programming and financing of efforts that impact Canadian Muslims,” the document reads. “The envoy should have the powers of a commissioner to investigate different issues relating to Islamophobia in Canada, and to conduct third-party reviews across all sectors of the federal government relating to concerns of Islamophobia.”

Another theme found in the NCCM’s recommendations is the need to address the way that education in Canada deals with Islamophobia. Specifically, the organization recommends that provincial education ministries develop anti-Islamophobia strategies that are responsive to local contexts. This includes changes to curricula that relate to Islam, improving religious accommodations for Muslim students and staff, anti-Islamophobia training.

“The reality is that (Quebec City mosque attacker) Alexandre Bissonette and (alleged London attacker) Nathaniel Veltman were young men,” Farooq told the Star. “We need to see a different approach to education, and the way that young people are learning about Canadian Muslims. A large percentage of Canadians have suspicions towards their Canadian Muslim brothers and sisters, and we think education and anti-Islamophobia awareness is a key component.”

NCCM’s document is broader than the 30 calls to action to combat systemic racism and hate that was published by a federal Heritage committee in 2017. However, Farooq believes that now is the time to take bold action.

“Words are no longer enough,” he told the Star. “The reality is that at this point, every single federal political party, the vast majority of the provinces, dozens of municipalities have all expressed their concerns about Islamophobia and Islamophobic violence. Faith communities are united about this, civil society folks are united — Canadians are united about the fact that things need to change. We just need to translate this into real political will to move things forward.”


Here are some of the recommendations from the NCCM’s 60 calls to action.

  • The NCCM is calling for the release of a federal anti-Islamophobia strategy by year’s end. The NCCM recommends the strategy include a clear definition of Islamophobia to be adopted across government, plus funding and resources for research, programs and education campaigns to address Islamophobia.
  • The NCCM wants the federal government to take action against Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans public servants from wearing religious symbols. Specifically, it wants the attorney general to commit to being an official intervener in court battles on the legislation. The document calls Bill 21 “a fundamentally discriminatory law” that perpetuates the idea “that Islam, Muslims, and open religious expression in general, have no place in Quebec.” The NCCM is also calling for the creation of a fund to financially assist those affected by the legislation.
  • Citing the rising tide of online hate and Islamophobia on social media, the NCCM is calling on the federal government to complete a legislative review of the Canadian Human Rights Act, in order to ensure that Canada is equipped to deal with modern forms of Islamophobia and hate. 
  • The NCCM is calling on the federal government to invest in a national support fund for survivors of hate-motivated incidents or attacks. The NCCM is also recommending changes to the country’s Security Infrastructure Program, to provide funding for security upgrades to mosques and community organizations under threat.
  • There are several calls to action dedicated to reforming national security and dismantling white supremacist groups. These include creating legislation “to implement provisions that place any entity that finances, facilitates, or participates in violent white supremacist and/or neo-Nazi activities on a list of violent white supremacist groups, which is separate and distinct from the terror-listing provisions.” The NCCM also calls on provincial governments to introduce legislation that bans white supremacist groups from incorporating.
  • The NCCM wants the Criminal Code changed to better deal with what is often called a “hate crime.” Specifically, the group is calling for amendments that “reinvigorate how we approach hate crimes, and that strengthens a prosecutorial approach that lacks consistency, clarity and resourcing across the country,” according to Farooq. 
  • The document includes several policy changes to tackle systemic Islamophobia at a federal level, including changes to the Canadian Border Services, the Canadian Revenue Agency and Canada’s approach to security and counterterrorism. For example, the NCCM is calling for the establishment of an oversight body specifically for the Canadian Border Services Agency, citing allegations that the agency engages in racial profiling that disproportionately targets Muslims.
  • The NCCM is recommending changes to policing at the municipal and provincial levels. This includes investing in alternative forms of policing for municipalities and introducing street harassment bylaws that protect Canadians against hateful verbal assaults. The NCCM also recommends that all provinces adopt the recommendations of Ontario’s 2017 Tulloch report, which calls for a sweeping overhaul in police oversight.
  • The document also includes several calls for governments to invest in and collaborate with storytellers, artists and filmmakers to help Muslim Canadians tell their stories and challenge narratives that contribute to all forms of Islamophobia. This includes funding local initiatives to celebrate the long history and contributions of Muslim Canadians.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2021/07/19/words-are-no-longer-enough-how-one-muslim-group-wants-canada-to-deal-with-islamophobia.html

‘Another political extravaganza?’ Muslim academics, community members skeptical about what might be achieved at Islamophobia summit

Some merit to this reaction as summits tend to be one-time events, often more symbolic recognition of affected groups with limited ongoing impact and change. This does not make the motives for holding them insincere, just that their impact is limited.

The many meetings and conferences regarding antisemitism have not reduced the number of antisemitic incidents, for example:

A National Summit on Islamophobia will be held this month, in the wake of a deadly truck attack in London, Ont. that left multiple members of the same family dead and as violent incidents of street harassment against Muslim women have been reported in Alberta.

But with scarce details available about the virtual event, including its date, and with the history of inaction on Islamophobia at federal and provincial levels, Muslim academics and community members are skeptical about what might be achieved.

They told the Star they fear governments may be providing the same empty words and promises that emerged in years past, including after the Quebec City mosque shooting.

Discussions where governments consulted with community members about how to tackle Islamophobia and hate have happened before — and the moment for talking has passed, they say. It’s now time to dismantle policies that limit the rights of Muslim people in Canada, said Fatimah Jackson-Best, a public health researcher and lecturer at York University.

“We don’t need a summit to know [about Islamophobia], we see this happening in our news. We need action,” she said. “There are some pressing issues around safety and freedom of religion and expression that we need policy on expeditiously,” she said.

Jackson-Best cites Bill 21 in Quebec, which bans the wearing of religious symbols for public servants, as discriminatory as it disproportionately impacts Muslim women who are not able to dress the way they want and wear the hijab in jobs in the province, including as lawyers or teachers.

Along with an honest discussion about standing up against Bill 21, the summit would also need to feature a multitude of voices to reflect the vast diversity of Canada’s Muslim community. Black Muslims, refugees and those of lower income need to be spotlighted, she explained.

She’s not interested in empty discussions on topics of which the community and politicians are already aware.

“Is [the summit] going to be another political extravaganza?” she asked. “There was nearly an entire family killed in London due to Islamophobia. This is getting very dire, so I’m just anxious to hear what kind of summit it will be.”

Calls for a summit grew after the June 6 attack in London that saw Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Salman, 44, Yumna Afzaal, 15, Fayez Afzaal, 9, and Talat Afzaal, 74, targeted for their faith while they were out for an evening walk. Fayez was treated in hospital and was the sole survivor.

In the weeks since the murders there have been violent incidents targeting Muslim women in Edmonton, including an attack where a woman wearing a hijab was pushed to the ground and knocked unconscious, while another woman had a knife held to her throat.

The office of Canada’s Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger told the Star Wednesday evening that on June 11 the government committed to hosting the summit and that she “would like to assure all Canadians that work began that very day. This is an important step as we recognize that systemic action is necessary and needed.”

Chagger said the federal government has been committed to tackling Islamophobia since it took office, by passing M-103, which was a motion to condemn Islamophobia, and by developing Canada’s anti-racism strategy, creating the anti-racism secretariat along with adding white supremacist groups to Canada’s terror list.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has put out a call for policy submissionsfor the summit that it will include in the final report it presents there.

Combating street harassment, specifically where hijab-wearing Muslim women are targeted, along with putting another 250 white supremacist groups on Canada’s list of terrorist organizations are just some of the issues the NCCM plans to raise, said spokesperson Fatema Abdalla.

A petition by the NCCM in June asking for Ottawa to convene a summit amassed more than 40,000 signatures.

Calls for a summit to address Islamophobia are not new and have been discussed since incidents of hate increased after 9/11, nearly 20 years ago, said Faisal Kutty, a lawyer and adjunct law professor at York University.

Anti-terror measures implemented at the time that have seen many innocent Muslim Canadians placed on no-fly lists, impeding their ability to work and travel, continue to be a major issue, he said.

Provincial and federal governments have portrayed the Muslim community as a threat and they have a track record of making hate towards Muslims worse, not better, Kutty explained.

“The government has played a significant role in breeding Islamophobia. The onus is on them to take the initiative to rectify the situation,” he said.

Kutty says he’s doubtful real policy that will help communities, like launching a national database on all hate crimes, will emerge from the summit.

He points to the failure by the government to pass real policy changes following the January 2017 mosque shooting in Quebec City that left six dead and five others seriously injured.

In 2017 following the attack, the House of Commons passed M-103 with a vote of 201-91, which was a non-binding motion that condemned Islamophobia. The majority of Conservative MPs voted against it.

As a result of that motion, a Heritage committee report with 30 recommendations on hate, systemic racism and Islamophobia was published and included creating a national action plan and improved data collection on hate crimes.

Other than declaring Jan. 29 a day of remembrance for the Quebec Mosque attack, not much was implemented from the report, said Kutty.

“That’s why I’m saying the track record has not been good,” he said. “The fact that people are acknowledging it and saying they want to do something about it is an improvement, but until we see action … I can’t really say we’re going to see too many improvements.”

After the June attack in London, a motion presented at Queen’s Park by Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter called on the legislature to condemn all forms of Islamophobia and commit to a six-month plan to tackle anti-Muslim hate in the province, including dismantling hundreds of white supremacist groups. It also called for support of the national summit.

But the province ended up tabling its own version of the motion that, while including condemning Islamophobia, did not include the six-month plan commitment, Hunter told the Star.

In a statement, the Ministry of the Solicitor General told the Star the province condemns all forms of hatred including Islamophobia and cited its anti-racism strategic plan that includes working with the Muslim community to tackle hate.

On Tuesday, Ontario also pledged $300,000 to Muslim organizations to address Islamophobia in schools.

The anti-racism directorate within the anti-racism strategic plan doesn’t have the resources it needs and is another instance where current government policies aren’t working, said Amira Elghawaby, a founding member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, which monitors, exposes and counters hate groups.

She said she hopes at the very least the summit will symbolize that governments are finally agreeing on the urgency of the issue.

“We finally got past the point of people still denying the reality of Islamophobia. And now we are starting to move toward addressing it, but it won’t happen overnight,” said Elghawaby.

Jasmine Zine, a sociology professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, was the co-chair of the Islamophobia subcommittee under Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government. But it was dismantled when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government was elected in 2018 and there is now a lack of proactive approach to Islamophobia — with statements and funding only emerging when there is an attack, said Zine.

“There’s been a lot of lost opportunities,” she said, referring to M-103, echoing Kutty’s comments about the 30 recommendations not being implemented.

She said she is unsure whether the summit will end up being politicians posturing, especially ahead of a possible fall federal election.

“It’s hard to feel that there’s a lot of sincerity when after the last terror attack there were opportunities to do something and they were not taken,” she said.

“So here we are again. It’s like déjà vu for a lot of us.”

Source: ‘Another political extravaganza?’ Muslim academics, community members skeptical about what might be achieved at Islamophobia summit

‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

Would be interesting to hear the perspectives of the other parties beyond the NDP as well.

The increased funding and programming is significant, as are initiatives like breaking down visible minorities into the different groups in employment equity )What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …) and the Public Service Employee Survey (What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion):

Nearly 18 months following the introduction of the federal government’s anti-racism strategy and nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger says although the government is making progress, “there’s a lot of work to do here and it’s going to take some time.”

In an interview with The Hill Times, Ms. Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) says “racism did not take a pause during the pandemic—on the contrary, COVID-19 has affected all Canadians and certain segments disproportionally.”

“If you look at every single minister and the work we’re doing, we are peeling these systems back in a way that we haven’t done before to ensure that the very people that are underrepresented and underserved are actually part of that decision-making and are informing our decisions” said Ms. Chagger. “There’s no minister that’s on the sidelines when it comes to this issue—[Justice] Minister David Lametti is having these conversations, [Public Safety] Minister Bill Blair is having these conversations, the prime minister is having these conversations.”

“Every single minister is consciously having these conversations and ensuring that these voices are being invited to the decision-making table and conscious about who’s not being invited, to ensure that these voices are also being heard,” said Ms. Chagger.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), who chairs the cross-party Black Parliamentary Caucus that was first established in 2015, was also optimistic that progress is being made—but said that “it’s always a rolling target to bring about big change.”

“I would even go back further than a year-and-a-half ago, I’d go back to the budget of 2018, where for the first time ever in Canada’s history, you saw some investments which were directed at the Black community,” said Mr. Fergus. “With regard to mental health, with regard to, most importantly, disaggregated data, with regards to some community support and programming, as well as capital costs.”

“And the creation of course of the [Anti-Racism] Secretariat,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the unit established within the Heritage department in Oct. 2019 to the tune of $4.6-million.

“We had the election, and then we had the creation of the new ministry of diversity, inclusion, and youth, so that’s great” said Mr. Fergus. “We saw mandate letters, which laid out what we should be doing.”

“And then we had the pandemic hit, and then we had the brutal videos that came out from the United States,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the May 25 killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis that was caught on video, an event that sparked outrage and mass demonstrations in the United States and in Canada, including on Parliament Hill on June 5.

“What have we seen since that time? We’ve seen a firm commitment from the prime minister to deal with this, and that was reflected in the Speech from the Throne, which delighted me to no end because it took every single one of the large subject areas that the Parliamentary Black Caucus had identified.”

In a statement release June 15, the caucus outlined a series of proposals that governments should act on to redress historic injustices in the areas of public safety, justice, representation in the federal public service, race-based data collection, as well as arts and culture.

There are some important steps which are being taken by Clerk of the Privy Council Ian Shugart and the community of deputy ministers within the federal public service to affect change as well, according to Mr. Fergus.

“All this to say—we’re making progress,” said Mr. Fergus. “Is it at the speed I want it to be? I would prefer faster. All parliamentary caucus is working on that and I daresay that the government is working on that.”

“We will get there, but it’s important to remember where we came from,” said Mr. Fergus. “When you look back at the journey, you can say there’s some pretty big progress. But if you were to compare it to where we know we should be, we’re not there yet.”

The anti-racism strategy, designed to unroll from 2019 to 2022, has a $45-million price tag.

Most recently, Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden (Milton, Ont.), who is parliamentary secretary to Ms. Chagger, along with Liberal MP Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre, Man.) highlighted 13 projects in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta that are part of 85 projects coast-to-coast that have already received $15-million in funding as part of the government’s new Anti-Racism Action Program.

Addressing systemic racism played large role in Throne Speech 

“For too many Canadians, systemic racism is a lived reality,” read Governor General Julie Payette in the most recent Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23. “We know that racism did not take a pause during the pandemic. On the contrary, COVID-19 has hit racialized Canadians especially hard.”

“Many people—especially Indigenous people, and Black and racialized Canadians—have raised their voices and stood up to demand change,” she said in the speech drawn up by the government. “They are telling us we must do more. The government agrees.”

But NDP MP Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.) said he thought most of the work that has been proposed by the Liberals have been based on announcements and aesthetics, and not tackling the actual institutional form of systemic racism.

“While it is small steps in the right direction in terms of the announcements of programs, this goes beyond buying your way out of deep organizational, cultural, and institutional racism,” said Mr. Green. “There is actual legislative work within the House of Commons under the purview of the federal government, from institutions like the RCMP, to the judiciary to their own public service sector, that still clearly suggests significant challenges around anti-Black racism.”

“And there just seems to be ongoing reluctance for this government to go beyond the aesthetics of big-ticket announcements and into the actual work of dismantling anti-Black racism and racism within their government,” said Mr. Green.

When asked about the tumultuous events of the summer and the effect the mass demonstrations had on anti-racism initiatives within governments, Mr. Green said the saddest part of that moment is that it was borne of the suffering and subjugation of Black people.

“Until we dismantle white supremacy, that suffering will continue, so the saddest part about that moment is that it will never pass and it will only ever continue,” said Mr. Green. “For every George Floyd, there are dozens and hundreds of countless, unnamed Black, Indigenous and racialized people who are brutalized by police.”

“That has not stopped—in fact, in the ensuing months, we know it to be true that the police have continued at all levels to be caught on camera brutalizing people,” said Mr. Green. “And it’s not just police—we’re seeing it in our health care systems, we’re seeing it in our long-term care homes, we’re seeing it in the way that workers are brutalized in the front lines who are essential but are not paid essentially.”

“These are the ways in which systemic and institutional racism play out in Canada, and this is a moment that will never pass,” said Mr. Green. “Tackling systemic racism is more than just announcing big dollar funding for programs.”

Ms. Chagger said she understands the call for legislation to address the matter, “but no law is going to change us.”

“We have to change us—we have to look within ourselves and in our own backyards. But this federal government under this prime minister recognizes that there is a need for federal leadership, and we will continue to display it, we will continue to act upon it, and we will continue to keep an open door and work with everyone, so that we are being inclusive in the way we are developing these policies so they work for all Canadians.”

Source: ‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

Feds fund 85 anti-racism projects that target economic barriers, online hate

Will look forward to the eventual evaluation of the program to assess its impact (when I worked in multiculturalism, the small size of the projects helped the various organizations but the longer-term impact was questionable):

The Liberal government has announced new funding for 85 anti-racism community projects designed to lower socio-economic barriers for racialized Canadians, tackle online hate, and monitor extreme-right groups.

Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger announced the projects on Thursday that would together receive $15 million under the federal Anti-Racism Action Program, the community-project component of the three-year, $45-million anti-racism strategy the federal Liberals launched last year.

Since its unveiling, the Liberal government has come under increasing pressure to boldly tackle systemic racism in Canada, particularly after anti-Black racism protests were held in American and Canadian cities following the death of George Floyd last summer.

In a scene captured on video and shared on social media to mass outrage, Floyd was a Black man who died while being aggressively pinned down by a Minneapolis police officer.

“We’ve seen the reality of racism at the front of global and national attention,” Chagger said in her virtual announcement.

“We can’t pretend systemic racism doesn’t exist in Canada. We’ve also seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and amplified the many systemic inequalities present in our country.”

Projects include the Nova Scotia-based Black Business Initiative, which is getting $151,000 to tackle discriminatory structures in hiring and employment, and an initiative by Legal Aid Ontario, which is receiving $285,000 to improve race-based collection of data on the bail system.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network is also getting $268,400 to hire four people to help monitor extreme-right groups and report on their activities.

The work of the network has taken on new urgency since its founding two years ago, said one of its board members, Amira Elghawaby, during Chagger’s announcement.

“There are more members and supporters of hate groups and dangerous conspiracy groups than there have been in at least a generation,” she said. “They’re harassing people. They’re killing people, and they need to be stopped, or at least contained.”

She said the money it’s getting from Ottawa, the first for the organization, will help it continue its exposure on social media of far-right activities, and its promotion of multiculturalism. The money will also allow it to actively fight hateful activities, not just research them.

B.C.-based Justice for Girls will get $206,970 to help Indigenous women and girls access justice, education and employment.

The Anti-Racism Action Program received a total of 1,100 applications in late 2019. Around 80 projects will likely involve Black and Indigenous communities.

The Liberal government has said the strategy is its first step in tackling systemic racism. In early July, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked his cabinet to create a “work plan” with concrete actions to fight the problem.

Last month’s speech from the throne outlined in broad strokes the Liberals’ plan. It included new legislation meant to: tackle systemic inequalities in the criminal justice system; do more to combat online hate; and increase economic opportunities for members of marginalized communities.

In a statement on Thursday, Trudeau spokeswoman Ann-Clara Vaillancourt said the government’s plans to tackle racism “will be further outlined in ministers’ mandate letters, which will be release in due course.” She said the government had made addressing systemic racism a “top priority” in the speech.

Chagger did not say when Canadians can expect more details of legislation that would enact those measures.

However, she said community organizations have told her it’s critical they get funding for more local anti-racism projects.

“We will continue ensuring that we work with community in partnership, because it’s instrumental that the decision-making table reflects the diversity of the country, and at minimum, be informed by the lived experiences of Canadians,” she said.

Unlike other anti-racism initiatives the Liberals campaigned on in the 2019 election, the promise to double funding for the anti-racism strategy wasn’t mentioned in the throne speech.

When asked about the election commitment on Thursday, Chagger would only say, “We will continue to build upon our commitments.”

Source: Feds fund 85 anti-racism projects that target economic barriers, online hate

Liberal Platform and Mandate Letter Comparison: IRCC and Diversity, Inclusion and Youth

Now that the mandate letters are out, went through the letters for Ministers Mendicino and Chagger, supplementing with other Ministers as needed (e.g., Justice, Public Safety, Innovation). The following table contrasts the platform commitments with the mandate letters, with no major surprises or omissions.

The most striking point was the relatively large number of Minister Chaggar’s commitments, although many are shared with other Ministers.

Hope you find this helpful and welcome any comments.

Liberal Platform and Mandate Letters 2019 – Immigration and Diversity Related

Diversity, inclusion minister should act as ‘catalyst’ with cross-ministerial power, say advocates

Some good commentary but more speculation until we actually see the ministerial mandate letters:

Renaming the multiculturalism ministry to diversity and inclusion has drawn mixed reactions from affected communities, as advocates await the release of the ministerial mandate letter to signal whether action is likely to come with the new title, or if it’s just “window dressing,” as some fear.

Within Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) expanded 37-member cabinet, announced on Nov. 20, multiculturalism has been hived off from the heritage minister’s responsibility, with a separate portfolio for diversity, inclusion, and youth created, to be overseen by Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) as minister.

Shireen Salti, interim executive director at the Canadian Arab Institute, said she’ll be watching to see if Ms. Chagger will be empowered to “act as a catalyst ensuring that diversity and inclusion is evenly applied across governments,” and that it doesn’t work as “a stand-alone ministry.”

The role should involve looking at the various functions of government and ensuring that underrepresented communities see some outreach and affirmative action, and that equal opportunities apply across sectors, something Ms. Salti said needs to be addressed for Arab Canadians, who represent the largest demographic of newcomers right now.

Former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes said she was critical of the position in the beginning, but it presents an opportunity to “shift the conversation,” which in the past has mostly focused on gender-balance, to one that addresses equity for all. It should envelope intersecting identities, including race, class, ability, sexual orientation, and religious minorities, she said, and the gender-based analysis that was applied to government work in the 42nd Parliament should be broadened.

The position should act as an “accountability” check on the Liberals promises, and she said she hopes Ms. Chagger is tasked to work across all ministries to ensure that policy is looked at from an equity perspective. That’s the key, said Ms. Caesar-Chavannes, who is critical of the term “diversity,” calling it a frame that may draw in more people, but doesn’t always lead to systemic change.

Diversity just means numbers, echoed Black Vote Canada’s Velma Morgan, while inclusion means actual participation, she said, and she hopes the minister’s mandate letter is “starting at home,” namely, addressing the dearth of diversity in government offices. It should include outcomes that lead to more people of colour among the political staff surrounding ministers, and those reporting to them in the bureaucracy, said Ms. Morgan.

“We need to have people at the decision-making table so it reflects our community, but also brings the voice of our community to those tables,” she said. “A policy may seem very neutral on the surface but it might have an adverse effect on our community, and if you don’t know the nuances in our community, then you wouldn’t be able to catch them.”

Without specific measures in mandate, it’s ‘window dressing’

To former Conservative staffer Angela Wright, Ms. Chagger’s new title is “very typical of the way” Liberals have done things, and doesn’t necessarily signal a change in direction or adoption of new policies.

“When it comes to diversity and inclusion, they’ve already done all the studies and the reports, and at this point we need to see action and we need to see money from government to signal this is actually a commitment and something they’re going to work toward,” she said.

Anything less than actual money, changes in law, and policy implementation “is just window dressing,” she said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South, B.C.) has dismissed the new ministry as “pretty words,” rather than “real actions,” to address inclusion.

Political scientist Anita Singh was equally critical, noting cabinet positions like this one—and the newly formed ministry echoing the Liberal Party’s tagline of middle-class prosperity—are “a catch-22”.

“On one hand, the prime minister is trying to signal that these are issues that are important to his party, but on the other hand, by isolating these ministries, it fails to show how diversity, inclusion, and youth issues are interrelated to other key portfolios,” she said.

The biggest issues for youth, for example, are job creation, housing supply, and education, and so a ministry separate from that core work “makes little sense,” said Ms. Singh, while immigrant groups and people of colour face issues around immigration, credential recognition, and economic growth and housing.

“It is a weird irony that integration is being isolated this way,” she said. “There seems to be a lack of understanding about how these are all interrelated challenges.”

Though the Heritage office, Ms. Chagger declined an interview with The Hill Times until her mandate letter was issued. The office did not respond to follow-up questions about the renamed ministry, its budget and departmental resources, and whether it marks a change in approach.

These files are coming together because “there are synergies between these different roles,” Ms. Chagger told reporters on Nov. 21, the day after she was sworn in. She’ll also take on the LGBTQ2 Secretariat, created last Parliament, which has been transferred, along with the Youth Secretariat, from the Privy Council Office to the department of Canadian Heritage. The government also previously announced an Anti-Racism Secretariat, under the purview of the heritage minister, and $4.6-million to bring in a “whole-of-government approach” to address racism.

“These are areas that we take very seriously and the fact that it is a responsibility at the cabinet table tells you that we are going to ensure that when we are making decisions, we are making good decisions not only for today, but for future generations,” said Ms. Chagger.

Ruby Latif, a former Dalton McGuinty adviser who has worked at various levels of government and in Liberal circles, said she was pleased the government has taken this “step forward,” calling it a helpful position.

“When you have someone whose specialty [is] looking at inclusion and diversity, it ensures there is a lens being applied to all aspects,” said Ms. Latif, adding she thinks Ms. Chagger is the right person for the job.

Ms. Latif knew Ms. Chagger through Liberal politics, and said the minister’s experience through her work at the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, before the second-term MP became a candidate, means Ms. Chagger “actually brings that lens of understanding of diversity.”

File typically considered a junior minister

This will be Ms. Chagger’s third portfolio since being elected in 2015. First, she was named small business minister in Mr. Trudeau’s first cabinet, and less than a year later moved to the high-profile House leader post. Now, she’s paired with the Heritage department in a post that’s traditionally been seen as a junior minister, noted University of Toronto professor Erin Tolley.

Asked by reporters if she felt demoted, Ms. Chagger said with cabinet positions, it’s the prime minister’s prerogative. She said she faced the same questions when she was small business minister, and as House leader, and that it’s “important” to sit at the cabinet table.

Ms. Chagger is one of seven people who are visible minorities who were named to the 37-member, gender-balanced cabinet. She’s the fifth racialized minister to take on multiculturalism—the now-renamed portfolio has been the most common assignment among the 20 or so visible minority people who have occupied cabinet posts since Pierre De Bané was named to former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet in 1978, soon after the post was first created.

Where racialized ministers are named is noteworthy, Prof. Tolley said, and while it may make sense to have people of colour to serve in positions that deal with anti-racism and multiculturalism, governments should see those objectives as everybody’s responsibility.

“You can’t meet these equity objectives unless white Canadians are doing some of the work,” she said. “If you want to stack up the comparison between symbols and actual outcomes from this particular minister’s perspective, she went from a prominent role to one of less visibility and less importance.”

Multiculturalism has historically been one of the “hot potato posts” that’s been “all over the map,” with governments dealing with it in different ways, added Prof. Tolley.

It was first housed within the old department of the secretary of state, which later morphed into Canadian Heritage, and it’s also lived with the department of Citizenship and Immigration. Some prime ministers had a separate minister of state for multiculturalism, while others didn’t have a minister whose post specifically included multiculturalism in the title, as was the case in Mr. Trudeau’s first cabinet.

Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.) was responsible for multiculturalism in 2015, but it wasn’t brought into the title until now-House Leader Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier, Que.) replaced her in the post in July 2018.

Semantics are important to politics, said Prof. Tolley, because it’s an explicit choice.

“The portfolios are not named accidentally,” she said, invoking the middle-class prosperity file as an example of a “symbolic and semantic” choice

“I’ll be curious to read the mandate the letter so see how, in practical terms, that symbolic choice materializes,” said Prof. Tolley, adding she also found it curious that the government isolated “youth” as a particular category.

It suggests something about government priorities, she said, whereas the words “diversity and inclusion” are “doing a lot of work” and are capturing a lot of different interests and identities and categories the government might be interested in. Last Parliament, Mr. Trudeau himself held the youth portfolio.

“From my perspective the name change, it doesn’t really go that much further, unless the mandate letter includes something about equity and outcomes,” she said, and it may be a case of simply renaming what was already there, and “in some ways almost diluting it, because now you’re dumping more and more elements into this bucket of diversity.”

Source: Diversity, inclusion minister should act as ‘catalyst’ with cross-ministerial power, say advocates