Which immigration promises will a Liberal minority government likely keep?

The fate of the Safe Third Country Agreement will likely be determined more by the USA than demands by the NDP and BQ, and “modernize” had a deliberate ambiguous quality:

When it comes to immigration, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made several key promises during the election. A few were specific, such as a pledge to create a new program that will allow municipalities to “sponsor” economic immigrants, while others were more general.

So which of the pledges on immigration will the Liberals be most likely to keep? And which promises — especially considering that either the NDP or Bloc Quebecois will hold the balance of power in any new government — are likely to go unfulfilled?

Most likely to fail

The Liberals campaigned on a promise to “modernize” the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the United States.

The agreement, which has been controversial ever since the number of asylum claims in Canada began to spike in the spring of 2017, allows would-be refugees to make claims at the border, even when they enter Canada at unofficial points of entry.

Trudeau and the Liberals have said changing the STCA would enhance border security and improve fairness in Canada’s asylum system.

But according to Sharry Aiken, a law professor at Queen’s University, any promise to “close the loophole” or amend the STCA agreement is likely to fail because that would require Donald Trump to agree to keep more immigrants and asylum seekers in the U.S. — something Aiken and other experts say Trump is unlikely to do.

The rising rhetoric around refugees is fuelling many falsehoods about whether these new arrivals pose a threat

Another reason why this promise may not succeed is that both the NDP and Bloc Quebecois have called for the STCA to be suspended until the Americans can prove that their asylum system is fair for would-be refugees.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — who could hold the balance of power in a Liberal minority government — has been especially vocal about the abuse and mistreatment that migrants entering the U.S. have faced from the Trump administration, saying it’s clear the U.S. is no longer safe for refugees.

Most likely to succeed

The Liberals — both before and during the campaign — have talked openly about the important role immigration plays in ensuring Canada’s future economic growth.

The Liberals pledged to steadily increase the number of newcomers to between 350,000 and 400,000 a year by 2021. This includes increases in all areas of immigration: economic class, family class, and humanitarian class — which includes refugees.

In their most recent budget, the Liberals also allocated $1.2 billion in additional funding to enhanced border security and refugee processing.

The funds, the Liberals said, would be used to help address the growing backlog of refugee claims at Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), which stood at more than 79,000 cases at the end of September.

Expanding economic immigration to smaller, more rural communities throughout Canada is another promise the Liberals are likely to keep.

The Liberals have said they would create a Municipal Nominee Program that provides up to 5,000 new spots for permanent residents a year. The program will give towns and smaller communities who don’t typically benefit from immigration the opportunity to “sponsor” newcomers to fill gaps in local labour markets.

The Liberals have also pledged to make the Atlantic Immigration Pilot project permanent, with another 5,000 spots a year for new economic immigrants.

According to experts such as Pedro Antunes, the chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, both of these pledges will help smaller and more rural communities meet their employment needs and attract badly-needed newcomers.

Meanwhile, Trudeau has said he is open to working with Quebec to increase the province’s control over immigration.

Quebec Premier François Legault and Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet have called for the province to have “veto” power over decisions about when failed refugee claimants and other immigrants are deported. The leaders also want more control over temporary foreign workers that go to Quebec.

Trudeau also said he supports Quebec’s right to implement a “test” for new immigrants who want to remain in the province permanently.

Source: Which immigration promises will a Liberal minority government likely keep?

Singh promises bump to Quebec’s immigration funds to address labour shortage

Sigh. Quebec already receives about 40 percent of settlement funding and only received about 16 percent of immigrants in 2018:

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his government would give a boost to Quebec’s immigration funding to help prepare immigrants to fill the province’s labour shortage.

At an announcement in Drummondville, Que., on Saturday, Singh promised to increase the federal immigration transfer payment to Quebec by $73 million per year to improve settlement services for newcomers, if he is elected prime minister.

The province has been dealing with a labour shortage, with more than four per cent of all jobs in Quebec left vacant for four months or longer, according to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business report. That’s roughly 120,000 jobs.

“Quebec is dealing with a serious labour shortage, and needs immigration to help meet the challenge,” said Singh.

“It’s a critical issue.”

The NDP’s platform also commits to bolstering immigration settlement in rural areas of Quebec. Many immigrants arrive in Quebec with no French language skills, which affects their ability to work in the province. Singh said that a funding increase from an NDP government would help to target those language barriers.

Quebec will already receive $25.5 billion from Ottawa this fiscal year in the form equalization payments and health and social transfers. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, $490 million was allocated for immigration supports.

But the provincial government isn’t completely sold on the idea of increasing immigration.

Leaning on temporary foreign workers

The CAQ government intends to accept around 20 per cent fewer immigrants this year, or 40,000 instead of the nearly 52,000 accepted last year.

However, Premier François Legault said temporary foreign workers can counter the shortage.

His government recently launched a $21-million plan to make it simpler for smaller businesses to recruit foreigners. It includes subsidizing recruitment missions by Quebec companies overseas and offering to cover $1,000 in moving expenses for the workers.

The province also announced $34 million for measures aimed at better integrating immigrants into the workforce.

Source: Singh promises bump to Quebec’s immigration funds to address labour shortage

Elizabeth May says there’s ‘no room’ for racism in Green Party after NDP defector’s comments

Let’s not kid ourselves by denying that racist attitudes don’t exist and that the comments by Richardson were more in that line than himself endorsing those views.

The question is more whether the “undertone” is more on the discomfort side or more xenophobic and racist.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May issued a statement Wednesday saying “there is no room for any kind of racism” in her party after a recent convert made comments about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen former New Brunswick NDP candidates threw their support behind the provincial and federal Greens. One of the defectors — Jonathan Richardson, the former federal NDP executive member for Atlantic Canada — said racism was one of the reasons for the party’s lack of success in finding candidates with an election call imminent.

He said he travelled around the province to meet NDP members and found there’s “a bit of racism undertone,” particularly in the northern part of the province.

“From when I was up in the [Acadian] peninsula, I would say that a lot of that region that most people would be a bit worried about somebody who wasn’t, you know, wasn’t Caucasian, and that’s going to take some time to show people that, you know, Canadians come in all cultures and diversities,” he said. “But for right now I think that that racism still exists.”

Singh is a practising Sikh and wears a turban.

Singh said all national party leaders should be celebrating Canadian diversity and that May needs to explain why she has let the former New Democrats into her party.

“She’s taking in candidates that have kind of openly expressed their concern around someone looking differently and that being a challenge,” Singh said in Toronto on Wednesday evening. “If she is accepting people that are suggesting things that are not accepting of people’s diversity, then the Green Party has a lot to answer for.”

“I think our political leaders should embrace the diversity of our country and should be willing to say you can look like whatever you are as long as you share the values and beliefs that are going to make peoples’ lives better.”

NDP MP Charlie Angus tweeted that “the fact that some N.B. NDP jumped ship because they wouldn’t run under a progressive leader who comes from another religion is sickening.”

Karl Belanger, a former national director of the NDP, also weighed in, tweeting that it’s “not a good look, New Greens.”

May issued a statement Wednesday saying Richardson’s comments “were taken out of context and have led to accusations of racism against the party.”

“One of the core values of Greens around the world is respect for diversity and human rights,” she said.

“There is absolutely no room for any form of discrimination in the Green Party. We have zero tolerance for sexism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia or hate speech of any kind. Canada’s strength lies in its diversity.”

New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon said he hasn’t had a chance to speak to Richardson since he made the comments, but he contends they’ve been “overblown” and “exploited” by people trying to “blunt the impact” of 14 NDP candidates joining the Greens all at once.

“What I heard him say basically was he ran into some people who had ignorant attitudes and held prejudices against people of colour or people of different religions,” he said.

“It’s not a news flash racism and prejudice exists in Canada, and it’s abhorrent and we need to work to stand up to it and stamp it out.”

Coon said he travels the province regularly and, in his experience, “most” New Brunswickers are “very accepting.”

The NDP hasn’t held a seat in the New Brunswick legislature since 2005. Its last MP in the province was Acadie-Bathurst’s Yvon Godin, who retired in 2015.

Richardson told CBC News Tuesday there are other factors behind NDP’s diminished standing in New Brunswick — including the fact that Singh hasn’t set foot in the province since winning the leadership in 2017, the election planning committee’s focus on “urban areas that are diverse,” and a lack of staffing.

Coon said he doesn’t believe racism has played a role in the NDP’s troubles in the province. He contends the NDP has been struggling in New Brunswick since Elizabeth Weir stepped down as provincial party leader in the mid-2000s.

“So it’s been a long process where they’ve found significant challenges in resonating with the people of our province. And so I think that it’s not just one issue,” he said.

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said he “couldn’t disagree more” with Richardson’s comments, which he said imply that New Brunswickers are “inherently racist.”

“The New Brunswick I know welcomes and embraces people of all backgrounds,” he said in a statement.

“These comments are wrong, embarrassing for the province and should be embarrassing for Green Party Leader David Coon.”

Coon, whose Green Party is enjoying a boom in support, securing three seats in the 2018 provincial election, said Richardson will have to take responsibility for his words. “It’s his point of view and he’s the one who’s going to have to defend that.”

Late Wednesday, Richardson posted the text of his speech on Facebook, “for those out there who are wondering and asking questions.”

Richardson said he will not be answering questions from the general public or media, but would be “happy to have a conversation” with any of his friends.

Source: Elizabeth May says there’s ‘no room’ for racism in Green Party after NDP defector’s comments

Are there still NDP voters in a province that just passed a religious symbols law? Singh looks to find out

Hard to see him squaring the circle on this one.

Will see during the campaign how much time he spends in Quebec compared to other provinces as possible barometer of prospects:

Quebec’s new law on religious symbols makes minorities feel like they don’t belong in the province, says Jagmeet Singh, and he wants to be the one to lead opposition to the legislation in Ottawa.

The leader of the federal New Democrats says this as he is standing in the food court of a mall in Drummondville, Que., surrounded by locals who support the law and think it’s about time immigrants adapted to Quebec’s culture.

If Singh is to hold on to his party’s 15 seats in Quebec, it will mean connecting with voters in places like Drummondville. That won’t be easy.

“Why do you wear that?” one elderly woman asks, pointing to Singh’s yellow turban. She asks him if he’s been in Canada for a long time.

Another man, Réal Lamott, admits it bothered him to see a politician wearing such a visible religious symbol.

“No, I definitely won’t vote for him,” says Lamott, who backed the Liberals in 2015.

Of the NDP’s 15 seats in Quebec, only three are in Montreal. The bulk of them are in the province’s manufacturing heartland, which stretches between Montreal and Quebec City. Drummondville is right in the middle.

The NDP swept the heartland during the Orange Wave of 2011, when the party won 58 of Quebec’s 75 ridings, but since then political affiliations have drifted toward the right, at least at the provincial level.

This region, its economy driven by mid-sized businesses, was critical to the Coalition Avenir Québec’s sweeping victory in October.

The CAQ’s so-called secularism law, which bars public schoolteachers and other authority figures from wearing religious symbols while at work, hasn’t dented its popularity here. Quite the opposite: According to some polls, the party’s popularity has grown since October’s provincial election.

Striding into these headwinds, Singh campaigned this week, visiting ridings in and around Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Drummondville.

He’s tried to tailor the party’s message to local concerns on this tour.

The NDP’s immigration policy, Singh said, will help businesses deal with the labour shortage, which is particularly acute in Drummondville. Its mass transit plan will bring upgrades to the local train service.

And its proposals for the environment will help smaller municipalities prepare for the more variable weather brought on by climate change.

“That’s what people are talking about,” said Drummondville MP François Choquette, who hung onto his seat for the NDP after he was first elected in 2011.

The religious symbols law is a provincial issue, said Choquette: “I’m concentrating on federal issues.”

Critics of the law, known as Bill 21, have been hoping for more vocal opposition from the federal parties.

The NDP, like the Liberals and the Conservatives, has avoided making any commitments to directly back legal challenges of the law.

Singh, though, went one step further this week, pitching himself as the spokesperson for those Quebecers angered by Bill 21.

“There are a lot of people in Quebec who don’t feel this is the right way to go, and I can be their champion,” he said.

The law, he says, is telling young people from religious minorities that the province where they grew up “is now rejecting you.”

Talk of turban ‘an opportunity’

Political observers are skeptical of Singh’s ability to reconcile that aspiration to lead the anti-Bill 21 vote while holding onto seats in the heartland.

The conventional wisdom among pollsters is that the federal leaders have little to gain in Quebec by being vocal about the issue.

But it would be nigh impossible for Singh to avoid addressing the law head on. Aside from his boldly coloured turban, his kirpan — the small dagger that religious Sikhs carry at all times — was visible as he shook hands in the Drummondville mall.

“Instead of a challenge, I find it’s an opportunity,” he said. “I find it’s the opening of a conversation.”

He offers the woman who was wondering about his turban a quick overview of Sikh history, focusing on the turban’s egalitarian symbolism.

“Well, I think you look quite nice,” she said.

Singh responded by giving her a high-five.

Source: Are there still NDP voters in a province that just passed a religious symbols law? Singh looks to find out

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

Robin V. Sears: How Jagmeet Singh can teach a lesson on tolerance

Interesting and credible advice, including how to handle Air India questions:

Next year, Canada may face a test of our national foundations, that is our commitment to social inclusion and tolerance. Will this fragile consensus survive the bloodletting of a national election when one of the leadership choices is an ambitious Sikh man, in a time when some partisans would stir the embers of racism?

In the naïve euphoria of a “post-racial Presidency,” how many Americans would have predicted an openly racist American president would follow? The Conservative Party has yet to be persuasive about how deeply it has learned the lessons of its disastrous flirtation with Islamophobic racism. The Quebec political elite still needs to acknowledge the black crow feathers dangling from their lips.

The ability to set these boundaries of acceptable discourse falls heavily on one man.

In 2019, Jagmeet Singh faces Obama’s choice. Obama did not run as a black candidate — to the chagrin of many black activists, like his hopeless pastor who almost single-handedly torpedoed his candidacy. He ran first as the candidate of “the outsiders” — by race, by ethnicity, and by class. Later, he became the candidate and the president, of social justice and race. The sequencing was essential to his success.

Jagmeet Singh might consider a similar story arc. He need not present himself as a Sikh candidate, or even as the champion of non-white Canadians: those credentials are given. Until now, even dog whistle racism gets slapped down here.

So Singh can frame himself as the champion of all that we have achieved, the defender of that edifice against any who would undermine it, and the advocate of what more remains to be done to build a discrimination-free Canada. He can be the candidate who frames the debate on these questions — helping to ensure no one is tempted to whisper against Canadian Muslims, or him, on the basis of his skin or his religion.

Those journalists tempted to use the tragedy of Sikh terrorism to humiliate him should remember this: Singh comes from one of the most persecuted, and discriminated against religions in the world. Thousands of young Sikhs have died in recent decades in circumstances that pass no credible legal test.

Some Sikh zealots, as a result, have taken up arms and dreamed impossible independence dreams. This has been a tragedy for one community, Sikhs themselves. There is virtually no sympathy for the Air-India bombers in the Sikh community here — after all, those who died were predominantly their own children and their parents.

What those journalists who taunt Singh, insisting on a condemnation they dictate, need to understand why that stand-alone demand is so offensive. If the question were, “Given the persecution of your community, the destruction of your temples, and the death of thousands of innocent Sikhs in civil conflict, do you understand why some are tempted by terrorism in response?” You would get a resounding, “No!” and then an explanation of why. Singh might want to deliver that cultural history lesson proactively.

He could also deliver a hammer blow to anyone tempted to again try on a racist subtext by speaking out in Quebec. Attacking the slurs against that mostly progressive and socially inclusive community could be powerful. In preparation, quiet discussions with Quebec civic leaders about how to deliver the message, would be valuable in themselves and a powerful signal to Quebecers that he is listening, not lecturing, advocating not admonishing.

He could cite brave Quebec activists’ resistance to anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Duplessis era; the fight for civil rights for all Quebecers, by Lesage and Levesque. And he could celebrate the solidarity among Jewish and Catholic and Muslim leaders in Quebec City after the tragedy there. Tomorrow is the first anniversary.

Like Obama, he could acknowledge both the sins of the past, but also Lincoln’s “better angels” — our progress won by courageous Canadians in every generation. Underline the need to continue “bending the arc” of history toward justice.

He can remind Quebeckers and all Canadians of the personal bravery of Baldwin and Lafontaine staring down the Protestant and Catholic bigots among their own clans, creating the space that made a nation like Canada a possible dream.

The Canadian sanctimony that says there is no possibility of a racist nativism here is dangerous. The Ontario Human Rights Commission reported in December that nearly half of recent immigrants and refugees reported incidents of discrimination against them.

So, let’s pray that Jagmeet Singh and progressive Canadians can succeed in framing the discussion of inclusion versus racism as a path forward, not one sliding into Trumpian depths.

Source: Robin V. Sears: How Jagmeet Singh can teach a lesson on tolerance

Get real. Jagmeet Singh has been dealing with racist hecklers for months. Andray Domise and John Ivison takes

Good article by Domise on how Singh has been dealing with these issues over the year. I don’t have the same assessment of the political chatter as Domise – agree with Ivison below:

Yet taken as a whole, the response to his campaign from the political class seems to be that Singh should hang back in Brampton until the rest of the country—a country which prides itself on not being as despicably racist as America—has evolved enough to accept him. At a time when white nationalists have crawled out of the dirt to murder people in the streets, shoot up and firebomb mosques, and taint the office of the U.S. president, this is not a good look. Regardless of the NDP convention outcome, Jagmeet Singh has, so far, made his candidacy look like light work. But the way he handled Jennifer Bush wasn’t the true demonstration of his class and grace. It’s the way he’s handled Canada’s serious thinkers, who can’t help but find polite ways to explain why he doesn’t belong.

Source: Get real. Jagmeet Singh has been dealing with racist hecklers for months. – Macleans.ca

A ridiculous article in Macleans suggested the “political class” has been operating from a “racialized” script that urges Singh to return in ignominy to his native Brampton and wait until the country has evolved enough to accept his candidacy.

But no one is saying this. Even in pro-secular Quebec, the informed commentary has pointed out that Singh won’t automatically lose on religious grounds.

This country still has work to do integrating its most recent immigrants, and its original inhabitants, into the tossed salad that is Canada.

Singh said as much recently when he pointed out that, while Canada is known for celebrating multiculturalism, “as a kid growing up, it didn’t always feel that way … my turban and beard evoked a reaction in every room I walked into.”

He said fashion became his “social armour … insulating me from the negativity I faced.”

Yet, here he is — the front-runner to lead one of Canada’s national parties.

He has embraced his Sikh identity and had some fun with it in an attempt to make it cool — who else could get away with a pink turban?

He understands, as did Barack Obama, that race is more a social construct that a biological reality — and that he can shift the culture.

His ethnic background has proven to be a power base from which to launch those ambitions.

I first met Singh in his Brampton riding during the 2015 election, when he helped his friend Harbaljit Singh Kahlon campaign for the federal seat he holds provincially.

He pulled up in a convertible sports car, in matching turban, tie, socks, and proceeded to charm the voters of Brampton East on their doorsteps.

Against the background of a lacklustre national NDP campaign, Kahlon lost, but it was clear: a) that Singh is a charismatic campaigner; b) that he has built a powerful political machine in the very young, very brown suburbs of Canada’s biggest city.

The Liberals will be disquieted by a capacity to generate publicity that might rival the prime minister.

New Democrats will just be delighted that someone, anyone is paying them a little attention. The net effect of the heckler video is that it may convince enough of them that Singh has been transformed from “precariously electable” to “sufficiently electable.”

Source: John Ivison: Jagmeet Singh heckler video may be his Trudeau boxing match moment

Jagmeet Singh’s Quebec problem: Paul Wells

There have been a series of articles on the problems posed by Singh’s candidacy in Quebec. This one by Paul Wells goes into more detail than most, other good ones are by Konrad Yakabuski ( Singh complicates the NDP’s Quebec quandary ) and John Ibbitson ( In Jagmeet Singh, a unifying figure with divisive potential ):

The second most-popular story on Le Devoir‘s website as I write this is about mounting anxiety in the Quebec wing of the NDP over Jagmeet Singh’s candidacy for the party’s leadership. “Several activists are panicking” at the thought, the story says.

The problem? Singh, a practicing Sikh, wears a turban and kirpan. “To have a leader who’d wear ostentatious signs” of his religious affiliation, “we are not ready,” Pierre Dionne Labelle, who was an NDP MP from 2011 to 2015, says on the record. “Would I be at ease with that? I don’t think so.”

This is the first time Le Devoir has found a New Democrat willing to speak on the record about concerns over Singh’s candidacy. Several others seem willing to share similar concerns off the record. The story also adds two cases where Singh’s positions in provincial politics could arguably have been influenced by his religious beliefs: a private member’s bill that sought to exempt Sikhs from having to wear motorcycle helmets, and a member’s statement over the provincial Liberal government’s controversial changes to the primary-school sex-education curriculum.

I could quibble with the latter of these examples. Singh’s statement on the sex-ed curriculum could have been made by Patrick Brown, the province’s Conservative leader, who is not Sikh. “The lack of inclusive consultation before announcing the curriculum was disrespectful to parents in my constituency,” part of Singh’s little speech, is a stock line in much of the opposition to the curriculum change.

But it’s less interesting to debate these points than to note that the anxiety Le Devoir chronicles exists, that it’s a challenge to the Singh candidacy, and to try to understand why these concerns are being expressed most loudly by the NDP’s Quebec wing.

Luckily we have a recent poll to guide us.

On June 26 the Angus Reid Institute published the results of surveys in the United States and Canada on attitudes towards diversity in political leadership. The Canadian results come from a randomized sample of 1,533 members of Angus Reid’s online panel; full methodology can be found here. Respondents were asked whether they would vote for a party led by a woman, a gay man, a man or woman wearing a religious head covering, and so on. This produced all sorts of fun cross-border comparisons—68 per cent of Canadians expect an atheist Prime Minister in the next 25 years, against only 37 per cent of Americans who expect an atheist President. But the internalsfrom the poll suggest other useful comparisons. Here’s the Canadian regional table showing responses for various questions that begin, “Would you yourself consider voting for a party led by a person who is…”

 

Screenshot 2017-07-11 13.20.30

Support for a Sikh-led party is only 46 per cent in Quebec, the lowest regional score in the country by eight points. On the generic “…man who wears a religious head-covering,” support is lowest in Quebec by 12 points. Support is also lowest in Quebec for parties led by Muslims, by Jews, and indeed by evangelical Christians.

This would probably be a good time for this Maclean’swriter to say the Angus Reid data don’t show a generalized inability among Quebec respondents to show “openness” to “difference.” No, the results are way more interesting than that. In fact, Quebec respondents were markedly more likely than respondents in the rest of Canada to support parties led by a gay man, a lesbian or an atheist. And there was no marked difference between Quebecers and other respondents when the hypothetical party leader was transgender, Indigenous, black or a woman.

In no other part of the country do the results line up as they do in Quebec: markedly less likely to support parties whose leaders wear some visible sign of their religious affiliation, markedly more likely to do so if their difference is expressed in some other way besides religion.

There’s an obvious explanation for this, but it rarely gets mentioned whenever the debate over so-called “reasonable accommodations” rears its head in Quebec or outside. It’s that Quebec has a markedly different cultural history with organized and visible religion than much of the rest of Canada.

Many older Quebecers, those whose memories stretch back before the mid-1960s at least, have personal memories of a time when the Roman Catholic church had a strong influence over public affairs. Even most younger Quebecers will have been taught, in great detail, about the period before the Quiet Revolution. And the Catholic church was pretty big on ostentatious displays of religious affiliation.

(You needn’t take my word on any of this. Marie McAndrew, a professor at the Université de Montréal’s faculty of education, has written often and thoughtfully on the “reasonable accommodations” debate and its cultural roots. In this representative piece, she writes: “…[W]e must remember that the people of Quebec who are of French-Canadian origin have a specific and usually more negative relationship with religion than people in the rest of Canada…. For most people born before the 1960s, in fact, the association between religion and public space evokes bad memories or at least memories that are incompatible with their democratic ideals.”)

The Quiet Revolution in Quebec was specifically a rebellion against religious influence. Progressive politics in many other parts of the country has been a politics of generalized tolerance; in Quebec progressive politics was often a politics of specific resistance. I lived in Quebec for five years and have written about its politics in instalments for nearly a quarter-century since, and I find this is one element of the debate over religion and politics that’s hardest for many non-Quebecers to grasp: suspicion of religion in politics is often a progressive impulse in Quebec politics. (Emphasis on “often,” as in, “of course not always, in Quebec or anywhere else.”)

Source: Jagmeet Singh’s Quebec problem – Macleans.ca

Jagmeet Singh’s challenge: substance over style: Kurl

Shachi Kurl asks the question: are Canadians ready for a Sikh Canadian political party leader given overall discomfort with religious headgear and related symbols?

My sense is that discomfort will affect some potential voters but agree with her assessment that his performance will be more significant with most:

Canadians are by now used to seeing turbaned Sikhs on every party’s bench. Lost to the annals of history is the fact that Gurbax Malhi’s election as the Liberal MP for Brampton-Gore-Malton nearly 25 years ago prompted a rule change on Parliament Hill. Prior to that, it was forbidden to wear “headgear” in the House of Commons.

Nor did Canadians bat an eye when Harjit Sajjan, also an orthodox Sikh, was named Defence Minister, in part because there was more to his story. He had been a soldier and a police officer, so he brought (notwithstanding the Operation Medusa mess) a credibility to the job.

In the same way, some of Jagmeet Singh’s political advantages and liabilities will be equally banal. On the plus side, he’s a bike enthusiast and a human-rights activist, which will stand him in good stead with urban New Democrats. In the minus column, he isn’t well known outside his home province, a problem shared with the rest of the pack.

But let’s not forget for a moment how judgy Canadians can be when it comes to politicians’ appearances. Stephen Harper was fat-shamed over his fondness for root beer. Chrystia Freeland takes heat for often wearing the same dress. And if Tom Mulcair’s beard was a topic for the last federal campaign, it’s certain Mr. Singh’s beard, turban, and kirpan – all tenets of his faith – will be the subject of discussion at the coffee shop, the ice rink, and on talk radio.

He will have to overcome Canadian discomfort with some of that religious symbolism. Angus Reid Institute polling on the subject from April (totally independent of Mr. Singh’s entrance into the race) shows that, while the vast majority have no issue with the wearing of turbans, they object to the display and wearing of the kirpan. Indeed, two-thirds of those polled oppose it, rising to more than three-quarters in Quebec, where the issue wound its way into the courts in a divisive, high-profile case. One can only imagine what Quebeckers, who once returned a large mandate for “le bon Jack” Layton, would make of Mr. Singh. Would they be prepared to embrace “le bon Jagmeet?”

He’s given interviews saying he doesn’t mind Canadians talking about his looks. Well that’s good, because it will be talked of, a lot. The key to overcoming barriers and discomfort will be education, familiarity, and Mr. Singh ensuring his narrative is about more than religion. By education, he will need to tell and tell and tell again why he choses to wear the kirpan and why it’s important to him. Familiarity is just that, getting voters used to him and the way he looks, a task made easier by fashion spreads and appearances on national comedy shows.

I firmly believe Mr. Singh the politician is more than the sum of his religion and appearance. However, his ability to convince Canadians coast to coast to look past the visible symbols of his faith and assess him as a potential prime minister is yet undetermined. Urban, younger voters will be more receptive than older, rural ones. But no demographic is a monolith, and much will depend on Mr. Singh’s own performance as a credible alternative to his federal Liberal counterpart, all while putting the capital “V” in visible minority.

Source: Jagmeet Singh’s challenge: substance over style – The Globe and Mail

Election 2015: Party Platforms Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism

Now that all the political platforms are out, I prepared this comparative table of the three major parties and their commitments on immigration, citizenship, multiculturalism and related issues.

A number of aspects worthy of note with respect to the Liberals and NDP (Conservatives are largely reinforcing existing policies):

  • Neither party mention repealing C-24 (2014 Citizenship Act) either in whole or in part (e.g., revocation), despite having been clear on the campaign trail and in the debates to do so (save for the Liberals committing to restore pre-Permanent Resident time for international students for residency requirements);
  • The main focus is immigration, with the Liberals emphasizing rolling back some of the changes, the NDP foreign credential recognition;
  • General agreement on refugee policy with some nuances;
  • No real discussion of multiculturalism save for the need for community outreach and engagement as part of a counter extremism strategy, with the NDP also calling for non-discriminatory consular service; and,
  • Both calling for the restoration of the long-form Census.

The link to the pdf version of the table is below (doesn’t translate well into WordPress):

Liberal, NDP and Conservative Platforms

I have tried to summarize accurately the individual commitments. Needless to say, if any readers have any corrections, comments or suggestions, happy to revise this accordingly.