Douglas Todd: We can stop typecasting Catholics and Sikhs — now the election is over

While Todd’s points, of course, about religious believers not being monolithic, Scheer was likely more hampered by his inability to articulate credibly his beliefs and how they would not impact his decisions should he become PM, not to mention his other credibility issues (insurance agent claims, dual citizenship etc).

Moreover, Canadian public opinion has shifted as Todd notes and leaders need to be attuned to that reality:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regretted in the fall that “divisiveness and disinformation were all too present features of this past election campaign,” in which he acknowledged he had become a polarizing figure.

What the Liberal party leader didn’t quite admit, however, is he played an oversized role in turning the October 2019 election, in which his party was reduced to a minority, into a toxic battle about, of all things, religion and sexual ethics.

Who would have thought it would come to this in multicultural, multi-faith Canada? We like to think it is only other countries, like the rivalrous U.S. or India, that are torn apart by religion-fuelled conflict.

But we had our own culture war in Canada in part because of the way Trudeau, and to some extent NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, hammered Conservative party Leader Andrew Scheer and even Green party Leader Elizabeth May, over two wedge issues with ties to religion — abortion and same-sex relationships.

These two ethical concerns were torqued so hard that most of the electorate likely lost track of any real sense of what Canadian Catholics and Sikhs actually believe about abortion and LGBTQ issues. The public might be surprised.

The Angus Reid Institute found Scheer, an active Catholic, suffered the most as a result of his religion. Commentators say it’s a key reason he announced last month he would step down as Conservative leader.

More than 51 per cent of Canadians told pollsters they developed a negative attitude to Scheer based on what they heard about his Catholicism and his beliefs.

A smaller proportion, 36 per cent, leaned negative about the religion of Trudeau, who says he is Catholic. Voters’ pessimism declined to 31 per cent for May, an Anglican who wears a small cross on a necklace, and to just 24 per cent for Singh, an orthodox Sikh who wears a turban and carries a ceremonial dagger.

Faith clearly remains combustible in Canada. Even though two of three Canadians believe having “freedom of religion” makes this a better country, more than one in five admitted they feel deeply “repelled” when a political candidate is a person of faith.

Scheer’s political opponents didn’t want voters to forget he is personally “pro life” on abortion. That lead to Scheer often saying “as leader of this party it is my responsibility to ensure we do not reopen this debate.”

Nor did Liberal or NDP campaigners want anyone to overlook that Scheer doesn’t attend Pride Parades. To which Scheer’s typical defence was, “I find the notion that one’s race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation would make anyone in any way superior or inferior to anybody else absolutely repugnant.”

But Scheer’s commitments to non-prejudicial behaviour did not assuage a suspicious electorate. Two of three Canadians said they don’t trust politicians to keep their personal views out of the public realm.

It’s possible, however, the public might have felt a bit more trusting of Scheer if they knew most of the country’s 13 million Catholics, many of whom are recent immigrants, are not nearly as uniform or doctrinaire as they are often portrayed.

Even though the Catholic church has long opposed any “direct attack on the fetus,” University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby and Angus Reid reveal in their book, Canada’s Catholics, that 85 per cent of Canadian Catholics approve of abortion when a woman’s life is in danger.

Illustrating striking variance among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, the book also shows half of Canadian Catholics believe “a woman should be able to obtain a legal abortion for any reason.” That was the same pro-choice stand championed by Trudeau and Singh.

When it comes to same-sex relationships, Catholic authorities continue to formally oppose them, while urging compassion. However, Canada’s Catholics are much like the rest of the laissez-faire population: “Close to two in three approve both of same-sex couples marrying and their adopting children.”

Canada’s 13 million Catholics are hardly doctrinaire on abortion or same-sex marriage. (Source: Canada’s Catholics)

Contradicting the pundits, who said before the election that Singh would provide the strongest test of voters’ tolerance for religious diversity, Angus Reid Institute polls show he was harmed the least because of his religion, in which he often expresses pride.

It’s conceivable many Canadians were, through extroverted, upbeat Singh, getting more exposure than ever to a member of the Sikh faith, which is about 500 years old, rooted in the Punjab region of India, has about 27 million followers and more than 500,000 in Canada (mostly in Greater Toronto and in Metro Vancouver).

But just as Scheer does not come close to representing all of Catholicism, Singh does not represent all Sikhs. Nobody, especially a politician, can embody everything about a faith (and that includes the pope).

Sikh scholars make it clear that followers hold a spectrum of beliefs about abortion and homosexuality, most of which are more conservative than those promoted by the NDP leader.

In Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed, respected University of Michigan professor Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair says the “idealistic” position in the Sikh religion, which teaches reincarnation, is opposition to abortion.

“To terminate a birth through abortion would be tantamount to refusing a soul entry into a particular body and sending it back to the cycle of birth and deaths — a choice that is not ours to make,” says Mandair.

However, the professor says many Sikhs today feel “morally ambiguous” about abortion and are less “hard and fast” about it. Mandair says Sikhism’s ethical bottom line is abortion, though sometimes acceptable, should not be “driven by selfish motives.”

In a similar vein, Mandair points out many Sikh leaders have condemned homosexuality in recent years, leading to most members of the faith believing in a “hetero-normative model of sexuality” that discourages alternative forms of family.

“Such a process of forcing homosexuals to go underground, as it were, has led to a belief among many Sikhs that there are no homosexual Sikhs,” says Mandair. Despite it, the professor maintains the primary source of Sikh ethics, the Guru Granth Sahib, does not justify castigating homosexuality.

All of which should help demonstrate that followers of religions are not monolithic. So we can always hope next time an election comes along more voters will have a bit better understanding of people of faith.

In that way perhaps fewer politicians will try to twist religion-linked concerns into dangerous wedge issues.

Source: Douglas Todd: We can stop typecasting Catholics and Sikhs — now the election is over

Robyn Urback: Trudeau’s leadership stands out in a week of national pain and loss

Appears to reflect the general consensus:

Hundreds of people across Canada are rounding out the worst week of their lives. They are the friends and family of passengers aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, who perished randomly and pointlessly because the Iranian military, by its telling, made a mistake.

Politics usually doesn’t matter in the worst week of your life, when grief insulates you from the normal noise of partisan theatre and governmental affairs. The exception, however, might be when the worst week of your life is intrinsically political: When an American contractor is killed in Iraq, so air strikes are carried out in Syria and Iraq, so the U.S. embassy is stormed in Baghdad, so an Iranian military commander is killed, so a plane is shot out of the sky, so suddenly, you’re on the phone with your wife’s life insurance provider. The haze of grief might break for a few political observances in that case, even if it happens to be the worst week of your life.

To the extent that political gestures resonate in these situations, there are few “right” things a leader can do and just about an infinite number of wrong ones. The last time Canada experienced a crisis of this type and magnitude – the Air India disaster of 1985, when a bomb exploded aboard Flight 182, where a majority of victims were Canadian – Canadian leadership chose a number of wrong ones.

In the aftermath of that crash, prime minister Brian Mulroney phoned India’s prime minister to offer his condolences, as if the tragedy wasn’t a patently Canadian one. Mr. Mulroney’s government was slow to set up a hotline for victims’ families, slow to provide information and slow to connect personally with those who lost loved ones. “Mr. Mulroney has not sent condolences to the individuals [affected] by the crash,” a spokesperson for the families was quoted in The Globe and Mail nearly a month after the explosion. The article also noted that since Mr. Mulroney was on vacation, the families would likely meet with a senior adviser instead.

Since then, and particularly in recent days, the Canadian government has proven it has learned from the mistakes of the Air India disaster. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stood in front of cameras almost daily since Wednesday’s crash, and Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has been tweeting updates on visa approvals for Canadian officials seeking to go to Iran. A national hotline for relatives and friends of victims was set up within days.

Mr. Trudeau’s personal statements have also hit just the right notes; he has been outraged for those who need to see their anger reflected in leadership, and sorrowful for those who need to see their pain acknowledged and understood. Partisans have already chalked up Mr. Trudeau’s empathy to skilled acting on the part of a former drama teacher, which is a fine way for curmudgeons to console themselves while ignoring the actual impact Mr. Trudeau has had on affected individuals – which, based on their telling, has been profound.

The Trudeau government has had plenty of communications problems in the past, but it doesn’t appear to be suffering from those issues now. In his first address hours after the crash, when information was still scarce, Mr. Trudeau prudently said that he would not rule out the possibility the plane was shot down, even as the Iranians claimed a missile attack on a commercial plane would have been “impossible.” Even more prudently, Mr. Trudeau later declined to engage with reporters’ questions about whether to blame the United States for escalating the conflict by killing top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

No doubt the Prime Minister recognizes there is little to be gained, and a whole lot to lose, by taking too strong of a position in terms of blame at this point. While he remains wisely circumspect, the Iranian people, who bravely took to the streets by the thousands over the weekend, are clear about who they hold responsible. The chief executive of Maple Leaf Foods, meanwhile, posted a Twitter thread Sunday evening in which he condemned the “narcissist in Washington” for escalating tensions leading to the crossfire killings.

These are fair positions for individual citizens to take, and reckless ones for a political leader in the early days after a disaster. To his credit, Mr. Trudeau has resisted invitations to wade in, and has instead remained focused on the victims, their families and the profound loss for Canada as a nation. If nothing else, that has to make at least a small difference to the Canadians currently grappling with the worst week of their lives.

Source: Urback: Trudeau’s leadership stands out in a week of national pain and loss

Une touchante inquiétude

Interesting column and the irony of Premier Legault’s comments on national unity:

Après l’avoir vu souffler sur les braises du nationalisme durant toute la campagne, il était savoureux d’entendre le premier ministre Legault s’inquiéter des divisions reflétées par les résultats de l’élection fédérale de lundi et conseiller Justin Trudeau sur la meilleure façon de « garder le pays uni ».

Cette préoccupation pour l’unité de la fédération est touchante, même si on ne peut pas dire que M. Legault y a beaucoup contribué avec la loi sur la laïcité, que son vis-à-vis manitobain, Brian Pallister, a déclarée contraire aux valeurs canadiennes, ni avec ses propos sur « l’énergie sale » produite par le pétrole de l’Ouest, qui ont fait bondir l’Albertain Jason Kenney.

En réalité, s’il y a une chose sur laquelle le Canada anglais est unanime d’un océan à l’autre, c’est que le Québec demeure l’enfant gâté de la fédération, comme le premier ministre du Nouveau-Brunswick, Blaine Higgs, l’a encore déclaré cette semaine. Selon lui, le Québec constitue un facteur de division en profitant de la péréquation sans rien vouloir concéder en retour.

Le hasard fait bien les choses. En 2020, c’est M. Legault qui assumera la présidence du Conseil de la fédération. Du 22 au 24 juillet, il sera l’hôte de ses homologues provinciaux au Château Frontenac. Il aura là une occasion en or de leur expliquer à quel point il est désireux de favoriser l’harmonie au sein de la fédération et de leur exposer ses idées sur la façon d’y parvenir. La perspective de séjourner dans la « capitale nationale » du Québec doit certainement les combler de joie. Un coup parti, M. Legault pourrait les emmener à Baie-James pour leur montrer ce qu’est une énergie propre.

Cela dit, M. Legault a raison de penser que l’octroi d’une plus grande autonomie serait de nature à apaiser la frustration des provinces de l’Ouest. Un mégasondage pancanadien effectué en début d’année par six instituts de recherche dans le cadre d’une analyse sur la « Confédération de demain » indiquait que les Albertains (49 %), les Québécois (48 %) et les Saskatchewanais (44 %) étaient de loin les plus nombreux à souhaiter que leur province obtienne plus de pouvoirs.

On a souvent du mal à prendre au sérieux les velléités indépendantistes dans l’Ouest. Pourtant, en Saskatchewan et en Alberta, à peine 33 % des personnes interrogées étaient d’avis que le fédéralisme comporte plus d’avantages que d’inconvénients, alors que cette proportion était de 46 % au Québec. Le PLC a été incapable de faire élire un seul député dans ces deux provinces. Cela n’améliorera certainement pas cette perception, même si des non-élus sont nommés ministres.

Vu de là-bas, un gouvernement libéral appuyé par le NPD était sans doute le pire scénario imaginable. La politique n’est pas faite pour les âmes trop sensibles, mais la civilité a quand même ses droits. À de multiples reprises, Andrew Scheer s’est permis de traiter ouvertement M. Trudeau de menteur et d’imposteur. On peut penser que cela traduisait les sentiments que le premier ministre inspire dans la province d’adoption du chef conservateur. Au Québec, où tous ne tiennent pourtant pas M. Trudeau en haute estime, on fait généralement preuve de plus de retenue.

M. Trudeau a confirmé mercredi que son gouvernement triplerait la capacité du pipeline Trans Mountain, tout en reconnaissant qu’il faudra faire davantage pour calmer la colère de l’Ouest. Jason Kenney tient toujours mordicus à un pipeline vers l’est, et c’est le Québec qui constitue le principal obstacle. Si M. Legault veut lui faire la leçon sur la façon de renforcer l’unité canadienne, M. Trudeau aura beau jeu de le lui rappeler.

Minorité oblige, le premier ministre a promis de faire un effort pour collaborer avec les autres partis représentés à la Chambre des communes et avec ses homologues provinciaux afin de mieux répondre aux préoccupations des Canadiens, mais il n’a pas donné le moindre signe qu’il envisageait de diminuer un tant soit peu le rôle du gouvernement fédéral au profit des provinces.

De toute évidence, il n’a pas tiré des résultats de l’élection les mêmes conclusions que M. Legault, selon qui les Québécois lui ont clairement envoyé le message de ne pas contester la loi sur la laïcité. M. Trudeau a refusé d’en prendre l’engagement encore plus fermement qu’il l’avait fait durant la campagne.

« Le message est clair : si vous voulez plus d’appuis la prochaine fois, soutenez la loi 21 », a déclaré M. Legault. Cela reste à voir. S’y opposer n’a pas empêché le PLC de demeurer le premier parti fédéral au Québec, aussi bien en nombre de sièges qu’en nombre de suffrages exprimés. La prochaine fois, M. Legault trouvera bien un autre grief à lui faire.

Source: Une touchante inquiétude

Trudeau’s weasel words on Bill 21 are more than his opponents can say

Indeed. Sad:

Jagmeet Singh felt that it was so plain where he stood on the ban on turban- or hijab-wearers in Québec’s public-service, he used “obvious” twice in a span of seven words. “It’s probably pretty obvious to folks that I am obviously against Bill 21.” He laid out his personal hurt, his sadness, his channeled frustrations that a Muslim in hijab cannot teach, or a Jew in yarmulke can’t be a judge.

Which is why, Singh eventually declared, he will … address affordability by taking on powerful corporations. This was, it bears mentioning, in response to debate co-moderator Althia Raj’s question on why he lacked courage to act in any way against the religious symbol law that so saddened him.

It’s not quite accurate to call the section on Bill 21 the most passionate part of the debate, but it was the segment with the most protestations of passion. The vigorously shaking heads of the leaders said no to the law. The lips curled into disapproving frowns. But the eyes of the leaders—unwilling, worried or merely politically calculating—told a different story: they were cast downward, in resignation.

For those who think climate change is this election’s great intractable issue, the broadcast consortium presented you Monday with the leaders’ filibusters on Bill 21. Andrew Scheer spent many of his ticking-down seconds praising Jagmeet Singh’s poise in the wake of the Justin Trudeau brownface revelation, before reassuring Quebec voters who like Bill 21 that he won’t intervene—and, while Scheer knows nobody was seriously worried about this, Canadians can rest assured that a Conservative government won’t pass a federal version of the law. (He did not assure us that the Québec’s French-only legislation will sweep the nation either, so now maybe we should wonder.)

Green Leader Elizabeth May latched on to Scheer’s great time-eater by praising Singh herself, with an odd little riff on white privilege, then added she doesn’t want Ottawa to step  into the debate Québecers are having.

Singh used his rebuttals to talk about “polarization”—not a segue to Bill 21, somehow! Instead, that became a way for him to key on his canned lines about housing costs and corporations.

Bloc Québecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet channeled the absent Premier François Legault and mentioned the don’t tread-on-us popularity of Bill 21 in the province—65 to 70 per cent, and nearly half the population “strongly” backs it.

Trudeau, the only person on stage who seemed to want to handle a Bill 21 question, carved into Singh for sounding like all the leaders onstage who haven’t lived a full life with racial discrimination.

“It’s a question of yes, it’s awkward politically, because as Mr. Blanchet says it is very popular,” the Liberal leader began. “But I am the only one on the stage who has said yes,” he paused on yes, to build up his grand crescendo… “a federal government might have to intervene on this.” Might? That’s his big zinger to defend minority and women’s rights?

Trudeau loaded up again for what seemed like another attempted sock-o against the NDP leader: “So why not act on your convictions and leave the door open to challenging it.” One of those old-timey revolvers in cartoons that actually produced a daffodil, not anything harmful.

The Liberals triumphed in Québec last time as the one party taking a firm stand against a Harper measure on niqabs, when others were squishier in deference to sentiment among Québec voters and caucus members. The field is so much more mealy-mouthed on Canada’s most racist legislation in recent memory that even by standing for not much, Trudeau stands clearly on his own on this one—for non-Quebecers and the minority of people within the province who despise the law.

Trudeau managed to get out his mini-jab about Singh’s convictions while the two were cross-talking, and as the Liberal leader’s words ended, the NDPer finished his own point. To be sure, his final phrase wasn’t directed at Trudeau. Yet it seemed, in a strange way, to be Singh’s way of admitting that he has put political triangulation ahead of principle: “I want to be your prime minister.”  

Source: Trudeau’s weasel words on Bill 21 are more than his opponents can say

Trudeau ‘blackface’ discussion surged online and then waned after 3 days, report finds

Like so many issues, real or not:

The day Time magazine published its report on a photo of Justin Trudeau wearing blackface, discussion exploded online. But less than a week later, online posts about the scandal had all but disappeared, according to new research from McGill University.

In fact, the online discourse around Trudeau’s history of wearing blackface dropped off dramatically within three days, according to an analysis of social media posts published today by the Digital Democracy Project, an effort led by the Public Policy Forum and the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.

“The story breaks and within a couple hours is trending on Twitter, there’s a massive amount of coverage,” said lead data analyst Aengus Bridgman. “By the next day, it’s about half. By the third day, it’s about a quarter and it goes down from there to very little discussion by the end of the week.”

The findings are based on a dataset of 3 million tweets from the general public from Sept.17 to Sept. 28. A separate dataset of Facebook posts that mention Trudeau and blackface or link to a story covering the issue showed a similar sharp decline in just a few days.

Journalists and politicians on Twitter also followed a similar pattern, with a high amount of tweets about blackface in the first few days that dropped off significantly toward the end of the week.

“We think that the brownface/blackface story offers a pretty unique research moment in an election where an unexpected discourse emerges that nobody could have planned for,” said Taylor Owen, the director of the Digital Democracy Project.

The researchers also took a look at accounts that are likely partisan based on the politicians they follow from each party. This showed that, while partisans of all stripes tweeted about the story, it was largely pushed by Conservative supporters.

An analysis of the hashtags used by accounts from these groups, however, show that most likely they were circulating among like-minded people: most of the blackface-related tweets coming from Conservative partisan accounts, for example, were only seen by other Conservative partisans, the report found.

“Among partisan Twitter users, Conservatives are driving the conversation about the controversy,” the report found. “The blackface-related hashtags are disproportionately populated by right-leaning partisans who are largely speaking among themselves.”

Source: Trudeau ‘blackface’ discussion surged online and then waned after 3 days, report finds

Quebec’s Bill 21 should also stir anti-racist outrage among party leaders

Good column by Jack Jedwab:

Somewhat unexpectedly, the issues of discrimination and racism have moved to the forefront in the federal election. At the start of the campaign, answering a journalist’s question about Quebec’s secularism Bill 21, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau left open the possibility of some eventual legal intervention on the legislation. Predictably, there was an almost immediate response from Quebec Premier François Legault, asking all federal leaders to make a pledge to stay out of the matter. With the exception of Trudeau, the other federal party leaders quickly complied. Bill 21 prohibits the wearing of religious symbols by Quebec public school teachers, judges, police officers, prison guards, Crown prosecutors and other public servants in positions of authority, as a way of enshrining the concept of state secularism.

And then, just as the campaign’s attention on Bill 21 waned, some very distasteful photos of a younger Trudeau in brownface and in blackface hit the national and international media. Trudeau apologized many times for his past behaviour and correctly acknowledged that it was highly offensive.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer insisted that the blackface pointed to Trudeau’s lack of judgment and as such raised questions about his ability to govern. During a September 20 campaign stop in PEI, Scheer said all levels of government need to address the types of issues raised by such conduct. He said that “Conservatives will always support measures that tackle discrimination…We’ll always promote policies that promote inclusiveness and equality throughout our society.” Ironically, that’s precisely what needs to be said in addressing Bill 21.

For his part, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made an impassioned plea to all Canadians who were offended by the images of Trudeau in blackface. He chose to speak to those people who have felt the pain of racism and urged them not to give up on themselves, adding that they have value and worth and that they are loved. But that message does not appear to apply to those persons affected by Bill 21. Singh seems unwilling to defend those Quebecers who wear a turban, hijab or kippah and want to teach at a public school in their home province. Paradoxically, while Singh can become prime minister of Canada, he would be unable to teach at a public school in Quebec under Bill 21. By insisting on the need to respect provincial jurisdiction, Singh implies that members of religious minorities need to give up their hope of seeking a career in public service.

Both Scheer’s and Singh’s criticisms of Trudeau and the related concerns about the spread of racism would be more credible if they denounced the discriminatory aspects of Bill 21 rather than bowing to the Quebec Premier’s demands and looking the other way on what Legault insists is a strictly provincial matter.

Perhaps, like many observers, the federal party leaders don’t see any connection between blackface and a state prohibition against educators wearing hijabs, turbans and kippahs in public institutions. Yet the case can surely be made that both arise from subconscious or overt feelings and/or expressions of prejudice that are, regrettably, deemed acceptable by far too many people. The difference is that Trudeau’s use of blackface occurred two decades ago, while the legislation banning religious symbols is the object of current debate.

In the aftermath of the Trudeau blackface incidents, there have been calls for a national conversation about racism. But the tone of this election campaign does not allow for a thoughtful discussion about the ongoing challenge of eliminating racism and discrimination. Ideally, all federal party leaders should work together to combat racism and discrimination, whether it appears in Quebec or anywhere else in the country.

Source: Quebec’s Bill 21 should also stir anti-racist outrage among party leaders

In court documents, Trudeau defends decision to call out Quebec heckler for ‘racism’

Interesting case. PM comments come across as reasonable and thoughtful:

In the wake of Justin Trudeau’s blackface scandal, his comments in a recent lawsuit give an illuminating insight into how the prime minister thinks about racism.

In August 2018, Trudeau made headlines when he called out a woman for “intolerance” and “racism” after she heckled him at a rally in Quebec and asked him about “illegal immigrants.”

That incident led to an ongoing lawsuit that has received little public attention since it was filed by the heckler last December. In July, Trudeau was questioned in Montreal as part of the lawsuit.

In the court documents, obtained by the National Post this week, Trudeau said he believed the intolerance had to be addressed clearly and also pointed to a particular brand of Quebec nationalism he found troubling.

In videos that circulated widely of the altercation — during a speech Trudeau gave to Liberal supporters at an event in Sabrevois, Que. — the prime minister can be seen telling the heckler that “this intolerance regarding immigrants does not have a place in Canada,” and later that “your racism has no place here.”

At the time, commentators and Conservative politicians were quick to accuse the prime minister of berating an elderly woman without justification, a narrative that changed somewhat after it was revealed that the woman, Diane Blain, had connections to far-right nationalist groups.

In December, Blain filed a defamation lawsuit against Trudeau, demanding $90,000 for psychological distress and damage to her reputation and her right to freedom of expression.

Trudeau’s defence argues that it was “perfectly legitimate” for the prime minister to “note the intolerance expressed by the terms used by Ms. Blain.”

During his examination, Trudeau told Blain’s lawyer the context of her comments made it clear she was intolerant. But he also said he doesn’t believe Blain was a racist, despite having accused her multiple times of racism.

At the event, Blain called out multiple times from the crowd, asking, “When will you give us back the $146 million that we paid for your illegal immigrants?” Her question was in reference to the Quebec government’s demand at the time to be reimbursed for costs incurred by the influx of asylum seekers entering Quebec at Roxham Road, between official entry points.

In examination, Trudeau said he didn’t initially understand Blain’s question, but realized what she was asking when he heard the words “your illegal immigrants.” He told Blain’s lawyer that the way she asked the question, referring to “your illegal immigrants,” proved it was not in good faith. “It was a context in which the goal was to disrupt and push an agenda that was either anti-immigrant or that simply wanted to spark fear and concern about immigrants,” he said. “So for me, it was important to respond firmly and clearly.”

He also said he felt it was necessary to speak out swiftly because the crowd was very diverse and many of his supporters at the event were immigrants.

He went on to discuss Quebecers’ concerns about asylum seekers at Roxham Road, saying there are “very reasonable people” who worry about illegal border crossings. “But there’s a point where it goes beyond concern and (becomes) a desire to preserve a historic Quebec identity against immigrants,” he said. “And unfortunately, it’s not something we hear often, but it’s common enough to be part of a pattern.”

At the August event, Blain asked Trudeau if he was tolerant of “Québécois de souche,” a term that refers to white Quebecers who are descendants of the original French colonists. He responded by saying he was tolerant of all perspectives and accused Blain of being intolerant. Later, when she confronted him again as he was moving through the crowd, he told her, “Your racism has no place here.”

Blain’s lawyer, Christian Lajoie, asked Trudeau during the examination about Quebec nationalism, after Trudeau said he didn’t like the term “Québécois de souche” because of its “connotations of intolerance.”

Trudeau referred to René Lévesque, the founder of the sovereigntist Parti Québécois, saying the former premier envisioned a “civic nationalism,” not one based on ethnicity. “I think a little bit for some people in recent years, we’ve been missing that desire to bring people together that Mr. Lévesque had,” he said.

Still, asked directly if he believes Blain is a racist, Trudeau said no. “I was speaking about her comments… that I associated with intolerance,” he said. “There’s a wave of thinking that has racist elements.”

In the days after the altercation, Trudeau stood by his response to Blain’s questions, telling reporters that “Canadians deserve to know that they have a prime minister that will always underline when these dangerous tactics are used in politics.” At the same time, media reports revealed that Blain had connections to far-right nationalist groups Storm Alliance and Front Patriotique du Québec and that she had once refused to be served by a Muslim woman at a dental clinic in Montreal.

In her lawsuit, Blain claims the event and subsequent media coverage caused “serious damage to her dignity, honour and reputation,” and that her family has been divided by the incident. She is asking for $90,000 in damages. She initially wanted an additional $5,000 for the pain caused by an RCMP officer grabbing her arm, but that has since been dropped. Blain did not respond to the Post’s request for an interview, and her lawyer declined to comment.

Trudeau’s defence claims that Blain came looking to confront him and his responses to her questions were reasonable under the circumstances. It points out that Blain identified herself as the woman in the videos after the fact, and has given several interviews about the incident. A spokesperson for Trudeau declined to comment.

During his examination, Trudeau indicated he believed his lawyer had approached Blain to try and reach a settlement. Blain recently told right-wing news site The Post Millennial, which has reported on the examination, that no settlement has been reached. According to court documents, preparation of the file will not proceed until November, after the Oct. 21 election.

Source: In court documents, Trudeau defends decision to call out Quebec heckler for ‘racism’

Trudeau’s blackface apology rings hollow and highlights anti-Arab stereotypes

An example of commentary without examining the actual policies implemented (eg. appointments, M-103 and follow-up).

His case would be stronger if there was an examination of the Liberal government record, rather than what I consider to be lazy commentary without that balance:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offended, humiliated and hurt several communities in Canada. The images of Trudeau in blackface invoke vile, racist and offensive stereotypes that have been used to deny the common humanity of Black communities across time.

Trudeau wore blackface on several occasions, including at an “Arabian Nights”-themed party where he also wore a stereotypical outfit. He has apologized for the blackface.

Canadians are now reflecting on the impact and significance of the prime minister’s apologies.

Leadership matters

In her recent book, Leading With Dignity author Donna Hicks, based at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center, says leaders play a significant role in creating institutional cultures, including governments. She argues that leaders must genuinely accept other identities if they want to promote the equal dignity and worth of all people.

Trudeau’s conduct ridicules racialized communities. It signals to them that they are second-class citizens. His behaviour must be understood in political and social context.

Trudeau uses anti-Arab clichés in politics

The prime minister invokes anti-Arab tropes when he criticizes Palestinian advocates and their allies who support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli occupation. For example, at a town hall in St. Catharines, Ont., in January 2019, Trudeau asserted that those who support BDS violate “Canadian values.”

People can disagree on the purpose or effectiveness of BDS.

But Trudeau’s decision to declare his opponents as un-Canadian is troubling. It invokes anti-Arab stereotypes and can be linked to a larger pattern of discrimination faced by Arabs and Muslims in Canada, groups that are often improperly conflated.

In a recent paper from the Journal of Law and Social Policy, “All Arabs Are Liars,” I examined a sample of human rights cases for common anti-Arab and anti-Muslim stereotypes. My analysis confirmed that Arabs and Muslim are stereotyped as un-Canadian or disloyal to Canada.

Stereotypes impact people’s lives

Stereotypes or negative tropes are not simply insulting. They help maintain a racialized status quo. They cause us to misjudge other people’s motives, abilities and actions.

For example, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, stereotypes influenced the decisions of Canadian officials who falsely concluded that Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, engineer and father of two, belonged to a foreign terrorist group. The officials’ decisions reflected the belief that Arabs and Muslims are not true Canadians. Such thinking contributed to Arar’s overseas torture. It is also evident in the torture of other Canadian Arab,Muslim men in several overseas instances as determined by a federal commission’s inquiry.

Various studies have confirmed that Arabs and Muslims increasingly face discrimination and stereotyping in policing and national security surveillance. Arabs and Muslims also face discrimination at border sites, public spaces, workplaces, service counters and airports

Arab Canadians face racism

In a recent survey of Arab communities in Ontario undertaken on behalf of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association with the support of the Law Foundation of Ontario, sociologist Suzanne McMurphy and I found that 27 per cent of people surveyed tried to hide their Arab identities.

When asked why one person explained it was because of the “prejudice and stigma associated with being Arab.” Another said: “Because it is clear to me that racism exists against Arabs and open membership can negatively affect me in the hunt for jobs.”

Unlike U.S. President Donald Trump, the Liberal government has not targeted Arab and Muslim communities. But, it has allowed anti-Arab and anti-Muslim practices to continue. It has failed to explicitly examine how its own policies diminish groups and perpetuate racial inequalities.

A show of diversity is not equity

Some point to the diversity of Trudeau’s team as a sign of his commitment to equality. But diversity and equality are not the same.

Feminists use the phrase “add women and stir” to describe the practice of including women without changing subordinating structures. The same tokenism can be taken towards racial equality.

Trudeau’s team is diverse. But the question is not simply “who does he include?” The problem is also: “On what terms does he include them?” A former Liberal adviser suggests the Trudeau team does not actually value diversity. It simply wants votes from diverse groups without fully including them in its power structures.

Meanwhile, the prime minister acknowledges that racialized people in Canada face discrimination. His apology used terms like “micro-aggressions,” “unconscious bias” and “systemic discrimination”.“

But it’s not clear that he’s internalized those concepts.

Until the prime minister demonstrates a real grasp of the dynamics of discrimination, his apologies will ring hollow.

Source: Trudeau’s blackface apology rings hollow and highlights anti-Arab stereotypes

I’m Calgary’s Muslim mayor. We can learn from Trudeau’s ‘brownface’ moment.

One of the best articles:

When I saw the picture, it was like a sucker punch. But there it was, smack in the middle of the Canadian election: my prime minister, dressed up in some sort of Orientalist “Arabian Nights” get-up, his face and hands darkened, that smile the same today as in the 18-year-old photo.

Let’s dispense with the obvious: Yes, it was a stupid thing to do, as much in 2001 as now. No, he’s not a racist. Yes, he’s done incredible things for pluralism at home and abroad. He’s apologized honestly and acknowledged how his own privilege blinded him to the impact of his actions on others. No, we don’t need to demand more penance from him. Yes, he should have come to this self-awareness much earlier, particularly as a then-29-year-old teacher who also happened to be the son of a former prime minister. No, he shouldn’t resign over this; he deserves to be judged on the totality of his record and whether Canadians believe in his ability to do good in the future.

But this tawdry incident highlights a much more important conversation all Canadians — and citizens of all liberal democracies — need to have.

First, some context.

Justin Trudeau and I are the same age. He was born when his father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister, growing up at 24 Sussex Drive, Canada’s version of the White House. I was born six weeks later; my father and pregnant mother having recently immigrated to Canada not long after Trudeau père announced, in a statement to our House of Commons, that multiculturalism would be Canada’s official policy.

Justin’s and my upbringing were quite different, but we both grew up in a Canada that defined itself by opportunity: a place where a poor, first-generation kid could get a great public education, work hard and do well in his career, supported by a community with a stake in his success. Like the son of a well-to-do prime minister, he can even be elected to public office.

When I was elected as Calgary’s mayor in 2010, I suddenly became well known beyond the boundaries of my beloved hometown. It surprised me. I thought people might want to talk about my come-from-behind win, or how a wonky professor with little name recognition beat better-known opponents. But all anyone wanted to talk about was my faith: How did a conservative municipality known for cowboys, rodeos and hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics end up with the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city?

I was surprised. My faith was not an election issue. It rarely came up, and when it did, citizens protested. He grew up here, he’s one of us, they said on call-in shows. We don’t care that he fasts during Ramadan, we care what he thinks about public transportation.

I could have waved those questions away, but I felt there was an important story to tell. A story of Canada as a multicultural utopia, as a place that has long understood that everyone who shares this land deserves dignity and the chance to be the best they can be. I still believe that.

Even in Canada, people of colour (or color, if you prefer) don’t quite live in the same world as others. We sometimes have to work a little harder, we have to prove ourselves a little bit more, we have to put up with occasional irritations. But it’s part of the deal to live and have great lives here. And we’ve got jokes to help us sort awkward moments: Go back to my camel, you say? I don’t have one. It’s 2019! I use a camel-sharing app!

I guarantee you there were people at parties in Calgary and in your town this past Halloween who darkened their faces for costume. Heck, I’ve even seen pictures of people dressed as me (despite my annual public service announcement that “Sexy Mayor” is not an appropriate look). The folks dressed like me are generally fans. They’re certainly not racists. And “brownface” (Is that even a thing?) doesn’t have the moral weight and historical baggage of blackface. Does it?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada with his face and hands painted in what he described as “brownface,” poses with others at an “Arabian Nights” party when he was a 29-year-old teacher at the West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, in this photo published in the academy’s 2000-2001 yearbook. This image, published in The View yearbook, was obtained by Time. (The View Yearbook/Via Reuters)

Someone who is seen as an ally can still do senseless things, however. Even in my amazing country, we don’t always know who really gets it, and who, despite their best intentions, still isn’t quite there. And in the past half-decade, something has shifted. Here in Canada, the home of the Global Centre for Pluralism, a nation where our innovation and defense ministers both wear turbans, where another minister is a refugee from Afghanistan, and where, during the Syrian refugee crisis, political parties supported taking in more people, something isn’t quite right.

It’s become easier to be careless with our language and comments, both online and in line at the coffee shop. In the run-up to the 2015 federal election, the incumbent government flirted with haters by pledging to ban face veils at citizenship ceremonies and promising to institute a Barbaric Cultural Practices snitch hotline. Canadians, in their way, responded by reporting, My neighbor wears socks with sandals! I saw someone eat Thai food with chopsticks instead of the correct spoon and fork! That government was defeated.

Yet in this year’s election, we have a (hopefully marginal) political party vowing, “Say NO to Mass Immigration” and accusing politicians of promoting sharia law. (Neither of these things exist in Canada.)

Far more egregiously, it’s no longer just slogans or casual individual acts of racism. It’s moved into actual policy. In Quebec, a new law prohibits people who wear conspicuous religious attire from holding certain public-sector jobs, including teachers and police officers.

Jagmeet Singh, a lawyer, is running for prime minister as leader of a national party, but because he wears a turban, could not serve as a judge in Quebec. I, as a Muslim man, could hold any job I want, but under this law, a Muslim woman who covers with a headscarf cannot. Muslim men who wear long beards could claim it’s just a nod to hipster-dom, and be free and clear, but Orthodox Jewish men with the same beard or a yarmulke cannot. Montreal’s mayor can hold any role, but the leader of her opposition, who wears a kippah, cannot. They’ve stood together against the law.

It’s all flagrantly unconstitutional, but the province of Quebec used the “notwithstanding clause,” a constitutional override provision (ironically, like multiculturalism, a gift from the tenure of the first Prime Minster Trudeau) to protect itself from legal challenge.

What’s funny about all of this is that various national leaders have mumbled platitudes about how much they dislike this law, but also haven’t committed to doing anything about it — including the candidate who wears a turban. Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer leans on the notion of “provincial jurisdiction” in a way that echoes of the language of “states’ rights” in the United States.

Even though the federal government could restrict Quebec’s financing or use its legal power to enjoin the provincial legislation, our federal leaders so far haven’t demonstrated the courage to do so. They’re hardly even talking about it. The law is popular in Quebec, and among others in the country, too. In an election year, they must be thinking, why risk losing those votes?

I‘m grateful every day that I’m Canadian — that my parents chose this country on the other side of the world. There’s no better place to have these conversations. But we have to have them.

We cannot stand on moral high ground calling out leaders for offensive things they did, years ago, if we’re not also willing to stand up against the racist and discriminatory behavior that’s right in front of our faces in 2019. We cannot choose our values a la carte when they benefit us — we need to be all in, all the time.

Canada, like any other country, isn’t black and white. It’s many-hued. Sometimes, it’s brown. We’re a welcoming, diverse country, but we recognize that we have work to do. Now, let’s use Justin Trudeau’s old blunders to think about the links between individual action and real justice.

Source: I’m Calgary’s Muslim mayor. We can learn from Trudeau’s ‘brownface’ moment.

Reflections on the Trudeau brown face/black face photos

Observing the media frenzy over the past few days over the Trudeau photos, a number of thoughts came to mind:

  • The focus on what was viewed as hypocrisy, understandably so, given Trudeau’s inclusion and diversity mantra and the Liberal party’s war room tactics in “outing” Conservative candidates for homophobic or racist remarks;
  • The overall shallowness of the reporting, focussed almost exclusively on the possible political impact, rather than more substantive issues involving racism;
  • The contrast between media and pundit outrage and more balanced reaction by many visible minority Canadians in talk shows and other reactions; and,
  • The lack of assessment of the Trudeau government’s record where, as I have analyzed before, is strong with respect to increased diversity (Taking stock of Ottawa’s diversity promises) and its renewal of the Multiculturalism Program including additional funds for data collection and anti-Black racism initiatives.

As noted by many, Trudeau’s apology was in many ways, his first real apology. One can only wonder whether he had adapted a similar approach to the various ethnical lapses (Aga Khan Island holiday, particularly SNC Lavalin) whether the government would be facing the same electoral challenge.

And most pundits, at least at the time of writing, have not done any meaningful comparison between the Trudeau apology for these photos and Scheer’s non-apology for his 2005 speech in Parliament against same sex marriage.

My quick take:

  • Trudeau responded quickly, with a second and more comprehensive response within 24 hours;
  • Scheer waited for the better part of a week before responding;
  • Trudeau recognized what the photos communicated, recognized their impact, expressed regret and indicated his personal views and behaviour have evolved, and made a strong statement against racism;
  • Scheer spoke in impersonal and legalistic terms that a Conservative government would not reopen same sex marriage but did not indicate his personal views and behaviour had changed;
  • Both were in their mid-to-late 20s and thus were adults.

Fundamentally, Trudeau’s insensitivity and obliviousness towards these images is balanced by not by his disavowal but more important by the actions the government he leads.

In contrast, Scheer continues to give the impression that personally, he stands by his 2005 speech but accepts the reality that same sex marriage is the law of the land. His absence in Pride events tends to confirm that.

Two media articles that drew my attention:

First, Samana Siddiqui’s Responding to Justin Trudeau’s Brownface: Memories of a Brown-Skinned Canadian:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is just a few years older than I am, and he grew up in the same Montreal I did in the 1980s. Which is why I can understand the roots of his “brownface” stunt.

For the record, blackface and brownface are wrong. Dressing up and mimicking another race or culture via costume is nothing less than a modern-day minstrel show. It’s not about humor, but about power and arrogance, intentional or not. The mimicked group is rarely the one in control of the accepted narrative about themselves or others.

My elementary school in Montreal was very racially and ethnically diverse. Most of the kids were like me, second-generation Canadians, the children of immigrants to Canada from all over the world. While we had our fights and disagreements, most of the time, epithets and insults based on race, ethnicity, or religion were rarely, if ever, uttered.

That changed once I reached seventh grade in a new school, in another Montreal neighborhood. There, most of the kids were also second-generation Canadians, with one caveat – their roots hailed from a specific European country (I’ll decline to name it). I was now, literally, a brown face in a sea of white. That was the first time I was called a “Paki” in school.

My response to the insult (which had been imported from Britain to Canada to describe brown-skinned South Asian people) was fairly simple. I responded by insulting the name-caller’s ethnic group. It worked. He never insulted me again.

And life moved on.

Did it scar me? Not really. But it made me wonder what had made him call me a “Paki” when a. I was at my locker minding my own business at the time and b. I had never before insulted his ethnic group?

Part of it was because teenage boys can be exceedingly immature. The other part though reflected something deeper.

It was the understanding that such words and mockery were accepted culturally – even if they weren’t officially. Had I gone to my teacher or principal, I have no doubt that the offender would have been forced to apologize. But that didn’t take into account the fact that “Pakis” like me were unknown to my classmate. We were rarely encountered in person, or in the cultural landscape via movies or on television. And when we were, our brown faces, “smelly” food, “funny” clothes, and our parents’ “accents” were a source of derision.

It was a reminder that we can all talk about multiculturalism until we’re blue in the face in Canada – but in the end, the only acceptable setting is white.

The more interesting part of this whole fiasco though is that it was Trudeau’s father, the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who pushed for greater multiculturalism, opening up Canada legally and culturally to diversity when he was Prime Minister.

The elder Trudeau declared in 1971, the year of Justin Trudeau’s birth, that Canada would adopt a multicultural policy. Under his leadership, he emphasized that the Government of Canada would recognize and respect diversity in languages, customs, religions, and so on. In 1982, when he was still in power, multiculturalism was recognized by section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But laws are one thing. Cultural change takes longer. It takes generations.

I’m grateful that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized. I have no doubt that this sudden revelation is also partly political calculation on the part of his opponents in a heated election campaign. In addition, we should keep in mind Trudeau’s overall record as a leader on issues of diversity when understanding this incident.

We can move on from here. But it has to be with the understanding that this is not about face paint or costumes. It’s about power. And if Canada, or any other country for that matter, wants to establish itself as a society committed to justice, equity, and strength through diversity, it cannot do that by creating an imbalance of cultural power – through insulting practices like brownface, blackface, or any other mockery.

Source: Responding to Justin Trudeau’s Brownface: Memories of a Brown-Skinned Canadian.

Secondly, Mark Kingwell’s Memo to Justin: Who you are today is who you were yesterday. His point on Aristotle “what you do is who you are” applies to Trudeau’s persistent instinct to defend, deny and obfuscate but not, I would argue to his political evolution.

After all, the views of most of us do evolve, both individually and collectively as we have seen with respect to gender equality, diversity, same sex marriage and the like:

So this is what we are forced to imagine. You have been invited to a party. There is a stated theme, or maybe it’s just a general fancy-dress affair. You go to the mirror, look at your handsome face and think: Hey, brown makeup! Or you look at your somewhat less handsome face and think: Hey, Nazi uniform!

Is there any species of dumb that’s dumber than donning a racist or fascist costume under cover of a party? Justin Trudeau, once our “It Boy” Prime Minister, is reeling from revelations that he dressed in brownface for an “Arabian Nights” party in 2001. Some may remember Prince Harry’s equally ill-judged decision to favour a brown shirt and swastika for a swanky birthday party back in 2005. What is it about parties? In both cases, you have to wonder: What were these guys thinking? I mean, really – brownface and brown shirt? I’m older than both of them, but even at their respective ages I think I would have known that these were bad, perhaps despicable, choices. Brownface? Brown shirt? Red flags, guys, red flags.

“I take responsibility for my decision to do that,” the PM said this week on the campaign trail. “I should have known better.” He added: “It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do, and I am deeply sorry.” Things got even worse when it was revealed that, in high school, the youthful Justin performed Harry Belafonte’s hit song Day-O while wearing “makeup.”

Let’s be clear. We are not talking, here, about the nasty N-word dialogue in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926) or the casual disregard shown for black people in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn (1884). In both those cases, and many similar ones, there is an argument that the quoted characters are not identical with the author. Even T.S. Eliot’s avowed anti-Semitism or Enid Blyton’s racism might be contextualized, if never excused, based on the passage of time. But Mr. Trudeau: 2001. Prince Harry: 2005.

We are forced to recall, in the Prime Minister’s case, his justification, faced with accusations of unwanted groping, that “someone else might have experienced that differently and this is part of the reflections that we have to go through.” Memo to Justin: Some of us do our ethical reflections before the fact, not after.

The issues go beyond parties, japes and half-baked apologies. Recently, comedian Shane Gillis had his upcoming contract with Saturday Night Livecancelled because of racist and homophobic jokes he made, all captured on social media. This ignited an enraged counterattack from mostly white, mostly middle-aged comedians who saw it as an example of “cancel culture” – the new right-wing code for what used to be called political correctness.

Never mind that SNL, and especially executive producer Lorne Michaels, can boast no clean sheet when it comes to racist, homophobic and politically craven humour (the show’s kiss-ups to Donald Trump are especially egregious, though maybe balanced by some other gags). When Bill Burr, Jim Jefferies, Rob Schneider and others lamented this contractual decision as “cancelling,” they were just wrong. Wrong, period. There are consequences to actions, whether or not you consider yourself an “edgy” comedian or a handsome fellow with a fine social pedigree.

Some people, lamenting the new vigilance over what public figures say and do, wonder if there is no statute of limitations on bad behaviour. “Sheesh, guys, it was 2001! I was a kid!” In 2001, Justin Trudeau was 29 years old. Shane Gillis was 30 when he recorded the now-infamous podcast. “But I’m a comedian who takes risks.” Again, no. It’s not being overly sensitive or too social-justice warrior or “millennial” to respond: “Sorry, no free pass on that one, now or ever.”

Personally, I’m with Aristotle. The Greek philosopher taught us that your actions are your character. What you do is who you are. There is no escape hatch from that, just a deep and never-ending responsibility. Who you are today is who you were yesterday. We may forgive, but we never forget. Saying you “take responsibility” does not alter the record.

Have you done bad things in your life? Of course you have. So have I. Let’s hope we all exercised better judgment than even contemplating donning dark facial makeup or a swastika – or finessing a charge of sexual harassment. For the rest, the world must decide. Welcome to ethical life, friends.

Source: Memo to Justin: Who you are today is who you were yesterday