Ivison: Trudeau makes sudden course correction on freedom of speech

While current concerns over freedom of expression relate mainly with respect to Muslims, there are many examples from other religions. The advent of social media makes navigating between hate speech (high threshold) and that which is offensive or a microaggression:

Justin Trudeau was asked by a reporter on Tuesday whether he condemns the publication of cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad.

“No,” he said, definitively in French. “I think it is important to continue to defend freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Our artists help us to reflect and challenge our views, and they contribute to our society.”

Source: Trudeau makes sudden course correction on freedom of speech

L’expérimentation multiculturaliste

As in the separate post on Ivison’s legitimated critique of different messages in English and French regarding limits to freedom of speech, what I found more interesting that some of the usual misunderstandings of multiculturalism in Quebec, the realization that Quebec’s demographic weight will continue to decline as the rest of Canada continues to increase immigration while Quebec immigration remains largely flat:

La semaine dernière, après avoir atermoyé pendant 12 jours, Justin Trudeau a finalement réagi à la décapitation par un islamiste radical de l’enseignant français Samuel Paty, qui avait montré à ses élèves des caricatures de Mahomet. Le premier ministre a dénoncé cet attentat terroriste tout en plaidant pour qu’on abaisse les tensions. « On ne doit pas avoir d’autres tisons pour accroître les flammes », a-t-il dit. Il s’engageait à parler à différents leaders, dont « des leaders dans la communauté musulmane ici au Canada pour comprendre leurs inquiétudes, leurs préoccupations ».

On pouvait y voir une critique à peine voilée d’Emmanuel Macron, qui s’est engagé à combattre le « séparatisme islamique » en France, tout en déplorant « la crise de l’Islam », un combat qui lui vaut les foudres de nombreux pays à majorité musulmane. « Nous ne céderons rien », a dit le président français, refusant que la liberté recule devant les menaces terroristes.

Le premier ministre canadien en a rajouté une couche. Interrogé sur ce droit de dessiner Mahomet, il a affirmé que la liberté d’expression avait des limites et qu’elle devait s’exercer dans « le respect des autres » et dans le souci « de ne pas blesser de façon arbitraire ou inutile ». Il recevait l’appui sans équivoque du chef du Nouveau Parti démocratiqueJagmeet Singh.

Or, mardi, Justin Trudeau a fait volte-face en reconnaissant que « nos journalistes, nos artistes ont un rôle dans la société de nous confronter et nous devons les laisser libres de faire leur travail ».

Pourtant, sa conception du respect, voire de la bienséance, qui doit limiter la liberté d’expression est parfaitement compatible avec la position qu’il avait adoptée au sujet de la liberté d’enseignement et de ces professeures sanctionnées pour avoir utilisé, à des fins pédagogiques, un mot qui blesse des étudiants noirs.

La liberté d’expression et d’opinion est un droit fondamental de nos sociétés démocratiques, un droit qui existait bien avant l’adoption de nos chartes des droits et libertés. Le droit canadien est clair : en dehors des propos haineux, des appels à la violence, de la diffamation qui cause un dommage et du harcèlement, la liberté d’expression est entière. La parole peut ne pas être vraie ou vertueuse ; elle peut blesser. La même chose peut être dite de la liberté d’enseignement, tout aussi fondamentale, qui est aussi celle de connaître, d’explorer, de critiquer.

Justin Trudeau peut prêcher la vertu multiculturelle si cela lui chante, mais il ne peut mettre en doute des libertés fondamentales auxquelles tient la grande majorité des Québécois. Et pour ce qui est de les représenter sur la scène internationale, on repassera. Il n’avait pas à prendre de haut le président français qui défend les valeurs de la République face à l’islam radical.

Le premier ministre François Legault a remis les pendules à l’heure : il a exprimé son appui indéfectible à Emmanuel Macron et à la France. Il s’est en pris à « certains dirigeants politiques qui craignent le terrorisme et qui, devant le chantage de certains groupes religieux radicaux, sont prêts à faire des accommodements qui ne sont pas raisonnables ». La nation québécoise a des valeurs et elle entend les défendre : la liberté d’expression, la laïcité, la langue française, a-t-il dit.

Deux conceptions s’opposent. Justin Trudeau n’a que le mot « communauté » à la bouche. Il parle de la communauté noire ou de la communauté musulmane comme s’il s’agissait de blocs monolithiques d’individus composant un « État post-national » — c’est son expression — devenu un assemblage multiculturel de communautés. Le Canada est d’ailleurs le seul pays où le multiculturalisme est inscrit dans sa constitution.

Dans cette optique, le peuple québécois n’est plus qu’un groupe ethnique parmi d’autres au Canada, les « Quebs », comme disent les jeunes anglophones du West-Island.

L’autre conception, c’est celle d’une nation québécoise qui tente de poursuivre son aventure en français avec tous ceux qui s’y joignent dans une perspective universaliste et démocratique.

Depuis l’élection des libéraux, le Canada a haussé à 250 000, puis à 300 000, puis, récemment, à 400 000 le nombre d’immigrants qu’il entend accueillir chaque année. Impossible pour le Québec de maintenir ce rythme : il lui faudrait accueillir 90 000 nouveaux arrivants par an, presque le double du niveau actuel. Dictée par Ottawa, cette réduction du poids politique de la nation québécoise au sein de la fédération n’a jamais fait l’objet d’un débat public. Pour certains, Justin Trudeau et l’élite torontoise qui le soutient sont engagés dans une expérimentation sociale inédite, une « a-nationalisation », pour ainsi dire, dont il faut discuter.0 commentaire 

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/editoriaux/589107/liberte-et-integrisme-l-experimentation-multiculturaliste?utm_source=infolettre-2020-11-05&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne

Glavin: On the death of Samuel Paty – Shouldn’t freedom of religion mean freedom from religion too?

Two articles responding to the reaction in many Muslim countries to French President Macron’s comments following the beheading of Samuel Paty, starting with Terry Glavin’s pointing out the hypocrisy of those who criticize Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate in the West while being silent on Chinese repression and arguably genocidal policies against the Uighurs:

Samuel Paty was a quiet 47-year-old middle-school civics teacher at the Collège du Bois d’Aulne, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the suburbs of Paris. He would walk to and from school from his second-floor apartment in nearby Eragny, where he lived alone with his five-year-old son. After class, he liked to play tennis. By all accounts passionately devoted to teaching, Samuel Paty was otherwise a man of temperate disposition, well-regarded by his students and by his colleagues.

That was just three weeks ago. Now, Paty’s name is coming up in blood-curdling slogans shouted in the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and in arguments and imbecilities erupting in Ankara, Riyadh, Islamabad and Tehran. Ambassadors have been summoned. Diplomats have been recalled. Tuesday this week was officially International Religious Freedom Day. If there was anything worth observing about it, it’s that religious freedom must mean freedom from religion, too, or it means nothing at all.

Source: Glavin: On the death of Samuel Paty – Shouldn’t freedom of religion mean freedom from religion too?

More temperate commentary by Konrad Yakabuski along similar lines:

The beheading this month of a middle-school teacher by an 18-year-old Islamic extremist, upset that his victim had shown caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to his students, was a crime so horrific that it shocked even France’s most-hardened anti-terrorism experts.

In a country permanently on high alert since a wave of terrorist attacks took the lives of hundreds of French civilians in 2015, the gruesome decapitation of teacher Samuel Paty was unanimously condemned by French politicians as an assault on the Republic itself.

“Samuel Paty was killed because the Islamists want our future and because they know that, with heroes like him, they will never have it,” President Emmanuel Macron declared at an Oct. 21 ceremony in honour of the slain teacher held outside the Sorbonne. “We will defend the freedom you taught and raise up secularism. We will not renounce caricatures, or sketches, even if others step back. We will offer all the chances that the Republic owes to its youth without discrimination.”

The caricatures that Mr. Paty had shown his adolescent students, as part of a lesson on freedom of expression, were the same ones that had led to an attack on the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in 2015. That attack left 12 people dead and sparked the global “Je suis Charlie” movement in support of free speech. But Mr. Macron’s defence of the freedom of the press earned him nasty epithets throughout the Muslim world and exposed once again the clash in values between France’s secularist majority and its growing Muslim minority.

French police have rounded up dozens of suspected accomplices to the attack on Mr. Paty by a Chechen refugee who had been alerted to the teacher’s actions by French Muslims who denounced it on social media. Mr. Macron and hardline Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin have vowed further crackdowns on imams accused of promoting Islamic “separation” within France.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the foreign charge against Mr. Macron with weekend diatribes questioning the French President’s mental health and accusing him of “leading a campaign of hate” against Muslims akin to the pre-Second World War treatment of European Jews. On Monday, Mr. Erdogan joined growing calls for a boycott of French products. Anti-Macron protests erupted in several majority-Muslim countries.

While other Western leaders expressed solidarity with Mr. Macron in the wake of Mr. Paty’s killing, it took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 10 days to even acknowledge the incident – and only after the Bloc Québécois brought forward a House of Commons motion condemning the attack “on freedom of expression” in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northeast of Paris.

Questioned by journalists on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau did condemn Mr. Paty’s killing, but declined to express his solidarity with Mr. Macron. “I’m going to take the opportunity to talk to world leaders, community leaders, leaders of the Muslim community here in Canada, to understand their worries, their concerns, to listen and to work to reduce these tensions,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Unfortunately for Mr. Trudeau, there is no middle ground in this debate. If he does not stand with Mr. Macron to defend freedom of expression, he automatically stands with Mr. Erdogan as an apologist for Muslim extremists. A listening tour will not cut it.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne also failed the grade with a Monday tweet in which he expressed “solidarity with our French friends.” He referred to “Turkey’s recent comments” as being “totally unacceptable” but did not rebuke Mr. Erdogan personally. He promised to “defend freedom of expression with respect.”

There is no other way to interpret Mr. Champagne’s tweet except as a repudiation of Mr. Paty and Charlie Hebdo. The caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed were anything but respectful. That was their whole point. No religion is off limits to satirists. And thank God for that.

The right to freedom of speech is meaningless if it is subject to conditions such as “respect.” The Constitution protects freedom of speech precisely because speech that is meaningful is often controversial. It is up to the courts to determine what constitutes hate speech under Section 319 of the Criminal Code. But the bar is set mercifully high. Democracy depends on it.

This is the second time in as many weeks that Mr. Trudeau’s government chose to trample on the Charter in the name of political correctness. After a University of Ottawa professor was suspended for using the n-word as part of an educational online lecture, Mr. Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland made banal pronouncements about fighting systemic racism rather than standing up for academic freedom. It was a facile cop-out on their part.

“We will not give in, ever,” Mr. Macron tweeted on Sunday, in French, English and Arabic. “We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and [we] defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values.”

Canadians should stand with Mr. Macron, even if their government will not.

Source: Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-canadians-should-stand-with-macron-even-if-trudeau-wont/

Statement by the Prime Minister on Canadian Multiculturalism Day

More substantive than in previous years:

OTTAWA, ON, June 27, 2020 /CNW/ – The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Canadian Multiculturalism Day:

“Today on Canadian Multiculturalism Day, I join Canadians across the country to celebrate our diversity and reaffirm our commitment to equity, inclusion, and mutual respect.

“Canadian Multiculturalism Day is an opportunity to recognize the important contributions that Canadians from different backgrounds have made – and continue to make – to build and shape a stronger, more diverse, and inclusive society.

“Multiculturalism is one of Canada’s greatest strengths and a vital component of our national fabric. All Canadians – regardless of ethnicity, religion, culture, or language – have the right to be true to who they are, and to live peacefully as friends, neighbours, and colleagues.

“While we have much to celebrate, we also recognize that we still have a lot of work to do to make this country fairer and more equal for everyone. Far too many racialized Canadians, including Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians, and Asian Canadians, face systemic racism and discrimination as a lived reality every single day. This includes micro-aggressions, which are harder to see by those who do not experience them, and systemic racism within our institutions, which too often condone, normalize, and perpetuate inequity and injustice against racialized Canadians.

“In the face of the pandemic, we’ve seen Canadians, from all backgrounds and walks of life, help their neighbours and support each other. But even during a time where we have come together, these last few weeks have highlighted that there’s more work to do as a country – especially when it comes to issues of discrimination and systemic racism.

“People across Canada and around the world have raised their voices and asked that we address the systemic racism that exists in our countries and in our institutions. We, the Government of Canada, need to work with racialized Canadians and Indigenous peoples in a meaningful way to end it. It does exist. It needs to stop. Racism and discrimination have no place in our society.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I invite Canadians to take part in one of the virtual eventsbeing held across the country and celebrate the diversity that makes us who we are. I also encourage you to talk with your neighbours, and take time to listen and learn from someone who has had a different life experience. By gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of the differences that make us stronger, we can build a more inclusive society.”

This document is also available at http://pm.gc.ca

Source: Statement by the Prime Minister on Canadian Multiculturalism Day

In contrast, the 2016 statement, his first year as PM:

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement to celebrate Canadian Multiculturalism Day:

“I join Canadians across the country today to celebrate multiculturalism, and our long and proud tradition of inclusion and diversity.

“As the first country in the world to adopt a policy of multiculturalism 45 years ago, Canada has shown time and time again that a country can be stronger not in spite of its differences, but because of them.

“As Canadians, we appreciate the immense freedom we have to show pride in our individual identities and ancestries. No matter our religion, where we were born, what colour our skin, or what language we speak, we are equal members of this great country.

“Our roots reach out to every corner of the globe. We are from far and wide, and speak over 200 languages. Our national fabric is vibrant and varied, woven together by many cultures and heritages, and underlined by a core value of respect. Multiculturalism is our strength, as synonymous with Canada as the Maple Leaf.

“Today, let us celebrate multiculturalism as a vital component of our national fabric, and let us express gratitude to Canadians of all backgrounds who have made, and who continue to make, such valuable contributions to our country.”

Source: Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on Multiculturalism …pm.gc.ca › news › statements › 2016/06/27 › statement-pr…

Double standards? PM and Scheer merit sympathy for wish to be with their families

At a time when the issues surrounding how governments and society should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding health and economic crisis, one can never underestimate the propensity for silly and shallow commentary.

And the media also pays far too much attention to these superficial issues.

I am sympathetic with political leaders who want to spend time with their families during these difficult times and do not find the actions by the PM and Andrew Scheer to be unreasonable.

As unfortunately to be expected, some Conservative commentators commentators can’t resist the temptation to take aim at PM Trudeau’s going to Harrington Lake to be with his family.

And also, as expected, no sooner than their commentary and tweets are out the corresponding story regarding Andrew Scheer travelling back to Ottawa with his family on a government jet along with two MPs in a confined 9 passenger jet.

Just as previous columns expressing outrage over PM Trudeau’s personal staff were undermined by revelations of Scheer’s excessive compensation for personal expenses (paid by the Conservative party).

As Norman Spector suggested in a tweet, the government could have reduced the risk by sending a separate plane for Scheer and his family despite the additional cost.

The more egregious examples are below, starting the Candice Malcolm:

While ordinary Canadians are facing hefty fines for breaking coronavirus-related public health orders, it appears that the same rules don’t apply to the prime minister and his family.

On Sunday Sophie Grégoire Trudeau posted pictures of herself with Justin Trudeau and their children on Instagram taking part in Easter festivities. According to the advice of public health officials, Trudeau violated the government’s social distancing rules.

“Even though families across the country are having to get a little creative and celebrate a bit differently this year, we’re all in this together,” Grégoire Trudeau wrote on Instagram.

Since March 29, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and their children have been living in Harrington Lake, Que. while Justin Trudeau has remained in Ottawa.

As Justin Trudeau and his wife and children now live in separate households, the family should be practicing social distancing.

Social distancing means that individuals should avoid contact with those that live outside their household, including family members.

On Friday Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told Canadians celebrating Easter and Passover to stay home this year.

“We need to not let down our guard. The safest plan for your holidays is a staycation for the nation,” she said.

Dr Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, added that celebrations should be limited to members of your household.

On April 1 the government of Quebec introduced strict travel restrictions across the province, including police checkpoints to prevent unnecessary travel in and out of Quebec.

Since the restrictions began, police have prevented 2,300vehicles from crossing the Ottawa-Gatineau border.

How Justin Trudeau’s trip to the family retreat in Harrington Lake would be considered necessary travel is not clear.

On Friday a family of four in Oakville was fined $880 for rollerblading in a parking lot of a community centre. The family says there was no indication anywhere that they were not allowed to be in the area.

In recent weeks hundreds of Canadians have also been fined for breaking public health orders, most of them for not following social distancing rules.

Source: Double standard: Trudeau violates social distancing rules

And the similar if not plagiarized one by Brian Lilley:

Justin Trudeau showed once again on Easter weekend that he doesn’t play by the same rules as everyone else, not even the rules he tell us to follow.

It was just last Friday that the PM was telling the whole country during his daily address that you couldn’t go see family for Easter.

“This weekend is going to be very different. You’ll have to stay home. You’ll have to Skype that big family dinner and the Easter egg hunt,” Trudeau said, standing outside of Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

That statement was followed up by this one.

“During the long weekend, we will all have to stay home. We cannot have gatherings for dinner and we’ll have to be creative to organize an Easter egg hunt inside the house,” Trudeau said.

So what did he do this weekend?

He got in his motorcade, with his full entourage, on Saturday afternoon and drove to the PM’s summer residence at Harrington Lake. From one cottage to the other, it is about 27 kilometers, it crosses a provincial boundary and goes through at least three municipalities.

In other words, Trudeau did exactly the opposite of what he, his own medical experts and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec have been saying. Ontario’s Doug Ford and Quebec’s Francois Legault have told people not to go to the cottage and to stay in our primary residence.

This is all part of flattening the curve we are told and making sure we don’t spread the virus. Quebec has even imposed travel restrictions within the province and for more than a week now, people trying to cross from Ottawa into Gatineau have been turned back unless they are essential workers.

No visiting the cottage, no shopping, no visiting family, no going on a drive through Gatineau Park. If you don’t live there, you are turned back.

Trudeau lives by different rules, though.

In normal times I would get this. I don’t begrudge him the fact that he travels with a big entourage; I get that being PM carries risks most of us can’t dream of. That said, these are not normal times.

Most of us would have loved to have visited family this weekend but we didn’t. We stayed home.

My parents are a short drive away and yet I have not seen them since they got back from Florida more than three weeks ago and I won’t see them soon.

Health officials warn against visiting anyone that you don’t already live with.

We are told time and again, including by Trudeau, that these are the sacrifices we have to make to fight COVID-19. On Saturday — just before he hopped in the motorcade and broke all the rules — Trudeau invoked the sacrifice of the men at Vimy Ridge to encourage us all to follow the rules.

Then he went to the cottage to see his wife and kids who have been living there for weeks and guess what, they had a big Easter egg hunt outside and posted it on social media.

At times like this, we need leaders who will lead by example; this weekend, Trudeau was not that leader.

He was showing he doesn’t follow the rules he sets for the little people and by posting the photos online, he and his family were openly mocking us.

Source: LILLEY: Trudeau’s cottage visit mocks us and the rules he sets

The one column by Ryan Tumulty who at least gives both equal treatment:

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer brought his wife, Jill, and five children to Ottawa aboard a small government jet, along with two other MPs, during a time when health authorities are encouraging people to keep socially distant.

The government has dispatched planes to pick up MPs in western Canada to allow them to attend the House of Commons in person for emergency votes that have taken place since the Commons stopped sitting in mid-March.

As the CBC first reported, the flight aboard the nine-seat Challenger jet picked up Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough in British Columbia, before collecting Scheer in Regina along with his wife and children.

Public health officials across Canada have encouraged everyone to stay home due to the crisis and to avoid all non-essential travel and keep a two-metre distance from others.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also travelled over the weekend, heading to Harrington Lake, which is about 25 kilometres from his home, Rideau Cottage, in Ottawa.

Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, posted a photo online of the prime minister and his three children on Sunday at the cottage.

Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has discouraged people from going to their cottage properties.

“Urban dwellers should avoid heading to rural properties, as these places have less capacity to manage COVID-19,” she said in early April.

Meanwhile, May confirmed every seat on the Challenger plane was full once Scheer’s family boarded, but she said everyone did their best to limit potential spread.

“I wore my mask. I kept the best distance I could keep under the circumstances,” she said.

May said she was extraordinarily grateful to be offered a seat on the flight, because otherwise, even after driving to Vancouver, she would have had to board multiple commercial flights.

“It was still going to be three airports going through Vancouver, going through Toronto to get to Ottawa.“

She said she was offered the flight by the government and initially told it would be her, Qualtrough and Scheer on board. May said afterwards she was given the chance to object when Scheer asked to bring his family, but she understood where they were coming from.

May said the deciding factor was knowing that if Mrs. Scheer and the children were not allowed onboard they would have had to make their way to Ottawa by commercial flights.

“It is a personal family decision. I am not going to put myself in their shoes,” she said.

Scheer’s spokesperson Denise Siele said the trip made more sense than other possible options.

“This one way trip resulted in less travel than Mr. Scheer flying back and forth every time the House sits, or flying the entire family on commercial flights through multiple airports,” she said in an email.

She said the Scheer family would now be remaining in Ottawa.

“After spending several weeks in Regina over the March break, Mr. Scheer and his family will be based out of Ottawa for the rest of the spring session.”

Simon Ross, a spokesperson for the Government House Leader, said the government has sent several flights to bring MPs and senators to Ottawa for emergency sittings.

“During these exceptional circumstances brought on by pandemic, when possible the Government has sought to accommodate government aircraft requests from MPs and Senators.”

May said she returned home on the government plane Saturday, after the house rose, with only her and Qualtrough on board.

Source: Government’s COVID-19 rules don’t seem to apply to Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau

Chris Selley: Official nonsense on masks, travel bans is killing Ottawa’s COVID-19 credibility

From armchair generals to armchair public health officials. Given recent Ekos and Angus Reid polls, most Canadians appear overall pleased with the their federal and provincial government responses despite the delayed in response and the changing risk assessments and thus evolving measures.

As always, hindsight is 2020. And one of the benchmarks is with respect to how other countries have handled the pandemic where Canada lags of course South Korea but it ahead or in tandem with many European countries.

But I do think that Trudeau could be more open about acknowledging delays in hindsight, for both substantive and communications reasons:

On Saturday, the federal government announced passengers with COVID-19 symptoms would be barred from domestic air and train travel, effective noon on Monday. “It will be important for operators of airlines and trains to ensure that people who are exhibiting symptoms do not board,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.

Does that make sense? It’s a question Canadians seem to be asking more and more about this country’s coronavirus response. And for governments and public health officials, it’s a dangerous one. All too often, the answer is “no.”

“What about buses?” many asked on social media of Saturday’s announcement. Buses are provincial jurisdiction, the feds noted. “What about ferries?” asked the Canadian Ferry Association. Good question. Ferries are Transport Canada’s business. No answer yet. Mind you, transport operators don’t yet have any guidance on how exactly they’re supposed to “ensure” symptomatic people don’t travel. It doesn’t make much sense.

Furthermore, we have been told over and over again that any measures carriers might implement — temperature sensors, for example — simply don’t work. “The positive predictive value of screening is essentially zero,” the authors of a widely cited 2005 study reported, based on Canadian airports’ experience with thermal scanners during the 2003 SARS outbreak.

One of the authors of that study was Theresa Tam, who is now Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. She’s the one doling out all the science that Trudeau insists underpins every single decision he and his ministers make: “Our focus every step of the way is doing what (is) necessary at every moment based on the recommendations of experts, based on science and doing what we can to keep Canadians safe,” the prime minister said Monday.

It’s more than a bit awkward — but not as awkward as federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s immortal March 13th dismissal of travel restrictions: “Canadians think we can stop this at the border, but what we see is a global pandemic, meaning that border measures actually are highly ineffective and in some cases can create harm.” Five days later, the border slammed shut.

We are to believe all of the positions above were supported by the same scientific experts. That doesn’t make sense. Clearly the experts supported the more lenient measures, and then politics intervened.

Clearly the experts supported the more lenient measures, and then politics intervened

Appearing before the Health Committee on January 29, Tam strongly dismissed the notion even of having all travellers from COVID-19 hot zones self-isolate for 14 days. She warned against “stigmatizing” communities. She very nearly suggested we couldn’t implement travel restrictions even if we wanted to. “Right now… (the World Health Organization) does not recommend travel bans,” she warned the committee. “We are a signatory to the International Health Regulations and we’ll be called to account if we do anything different.”

The WHO still recommends against travel restrictions, even to and from especially affected countries. No one seems to be “calling us to account.”

It could well be that by the time Canadians started calling for travel restrictions, it was already too late to implement useful ones. That’s what research generally concludes. But research also acknowledges the political inevitability of travel crackdowns. They just make too much sense to too many people. Federal ministers and public health officials recklessly undermined themselves by so forcefully rejecting measures that made so much sense to so many people.

“Security theatre can be dangerous — but the absence of security theatre can be dangerous too,” Martha Pillinger, an associate at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, wrote in Foreign Policy last month. “Apparent inaction (or insufficient action) erodes trust in public health authorities, which undermines response efforts.”

Indeed, Tam is asking a lot of Canadians to set aside a lot of common sense right now. There is ample evidence that face masks — even homemade ones— can provide significant protection to the uninfected. But Tam warns only of the potential pitfalls: Masks can provide “a false sense of security,” lead to more face-touching or make us forget to wash our hands. “Putting a mask on an asymptomatic person is not beneficial,” she said at her Monday press conference.

That makes sense to a lot of medical professionals. A lot of regular people, however, are pretty sure they know how to wash their hands and not touch their faces. When officials say “masks don’t work,” a lot of regular people hear “we have an inexcusable shortage of masks for frontline healthcare workers so please give us your masks.” When officials say “you don’t need to be tested,” they are likely to hear “we have inexcusably few tests available and not enough lab capacity to process the ones we have.”

Officials recklessly undermined themselves by so forcefully rejecting measures that made so much sense to so many people

On Sunday, Tam sternly advised Canadians against retreating to any “rural properties” they might own. “These places have less capacity to manage COVID-19,” she told reporters in Ottawa. That makes sense, as do concerns about straining off-season supply chains. But let’s say you’ve been extremely careful. You’re symptom free. You pack up a week’s worth of groceries, drive 90 minutes or two hours non-stop to your cottage, camp, farm or chalet, and don’t interact with a single other human being. How dangerous, how irresponsible could that really be? If the cottage is good enough for Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and the kids, who beetled off to Harrington Lake on Sunday, some people might conclude it’s good enough for them.

Public health officials want to prevent people from asking such questions, from making excuses for themselves, in hopes the maximum number of people will take the maximum precautions. They need smart people to forsake relatively low-risk things in order to counterbalance all the dumb people who do high-risk things no matter what they’re told. None of the measures will ever make perfect sense in every single situation. They are calls to collective sacrifice for the greater good. But they can’t keep changing on the fly, with no explanation other than “the experts got more worried overnight,” and remain credible.

On Monday, Trudeau declined even to say he regretted not moving quicker on measures he now insists are essential.

Does that make sense? No, that doesn’t make sense.

Source: Chris Selley: Official nonsense on masks, travel bans is killing Ottawa’s COVID-19 credibility

Delacourt: Are you a good Canadian? Justin Trudeau offers the coronavirus as a lesson in responsible citizenship

Good commentary and yes, a lesson in civic responsibility, one that the PM has had to personally demonstrate given his self-quarantine and cancellation of the FPT meeting given his wife having tested positive:

Ask not what the federal government is doing for you about the COVID-19 pandemic, but ask instead what you are doing to keep Canadians healthy.

Justin Trudeau didn’t exactly borrow from John F. Kennedy’s immortal lines about civic responsibility at his news conference on Wednesday, but the prime minister also, very deliberately, cast the virus crisis as a crash course for all of us in good citizenship.

“Often there are global crises or events when the average citizen does not feel particularly powerful to affect the fate of the economy. We are in a situation where the choices our citizens make will have a direct impact on the health of Canada and on the Canadian economy,” Trudeau said in French toward the end of his morning appearance in the National Press Theatre.

It was billed as a high-level update on what the Canadian government is doing for citizens as the novel coronavirus spreads its damage throughout Canada and the world. “We get it and we’re on it,” Trudeau said.

But slipped into all the talk of government having our backs — another new, favourite phrase from Trudeau’s team this year — was a gentle reminder or two that citizenship is a two-way street. The government is in a giving frame of mind, but a taking one too, in terms of what it’s asking of average Canadian citizens to keep the virus contained.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, spoke at the news conference of how citizens — not the state or even the health-care system — would ultimately determine the trajectory of this virus.

“The advantage of being in the Canadian system is that people will be supported to do what public health has asked them to do but everyone can change the dynamic of that curve,” Dr. Tam said. “That`s such an important message that I don’t want people to lose sight of. Individual physicians can’t do it, public health units on their own can’t do it. Everyone has to contribute.”

The prime minister followed up with reinforcement. “At this point our strongest recommendation is for Canadians to be involved in keeping themselves and their families safe,” Trudeau said.

Asking people to change their behaviour for the sake of the country is a very 20th century concept in North America, when war, duty and sacrifice were part of the political lexicon. In this century, political appeals to people’s selflessness is usually framed as: do it for your kids, or the next generation.

But governments are still keenly interested in what they can do to change individuals’ behaviour to align with national or state goals, especially when it comes to climate change, for instance. Britain set up its famous “nudge unit” within its cabinet office in the early 2000s to study how behavioural-economic insights could be turned into public policy. And Canada, for its part, has something called the “impact and innovation unit” inside government, inspired in part by the British example.

The COVID-19 virus, now a pandemic, could well become a laboratory into how governments nudge their citizens into different behaviour. Certainly that old British unit, now a separate company called the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) has been having thoughts in that direction.

In a recent blog post, BIT laid out some thoughts on “how do we encourage the right behaviours during an epidemic?” It’s not easy, BIT acknowledged: the incentives for changed citizen behaviour are neither clear nor immediate. “People have no way of knowing if taking preventive steps will actually stop them contracting the virus. You’ll never know what didn’t happen.”

The blog post talks about the importance of public-health officials being front and centre to cultivate trust and why governments should be transparent, but also sparing about details,

“In some cases, less rather than more information leads to more accurate judgments,” BIT’s blog post states. “Communicating simple instructions that are easy to remember makes it more likely that people will follow them.”

I don’t know whether anyone inside the government is reading the BIT blog, but Trudeau’s news conference on Wednesday revealed a high degree of interest in the social science — as well as the medical science — of managing a pandemic.

“This is on all of us,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters later on Monday.

Canadian citizens have been asking a lot of their federal government in the past few months — from requests to fix snarled train traffic to the rescue of Canadians in trouble abroad. COVID-19 has turned that equation upside down. As Kennedy might have put it, this pandemic is forcing citizens to ask not what the country can do for them, but what they can do for the country.

Black Canadian groups call on feds to address economic inequities facing community

Will be interesting to see what, if any, concrete initiatives emerge from this meeting. The Federation of Black Canadians was successful in securing funding for anti-racism programming:

A collective of Black Canadian groups is appealing to the prime minister to address the barriers that prevent the community from achieving economic parity with the rest of the country.

The Black Political Action Committee’s meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.), Diversity Minister Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.), Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen (York South-Weston, Ont.), and Liberal MPs Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.) and Emmanuel Dubourg (Bourassa, Que.), on Feb. 3 is part of a long-running lobbying effort during Black History Month to engage the government and other Parliamentarians in its efforts to tackle anti-Black racism.

With this year’s effort focused on the theme of economic inclusion, the collective brought together several groups and individuals—including Arielle Kayabaga, the first Black city councillor in London, Ont., Dahabo Ahmed Omer of the Federation of Black Canadians, and Michael Forrest of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce—engaged in this field.

Economic inclusion is “the basis for all other aspects of what inclusion might mean,” said Tiffany Gooch, a Liberal strategist and principal consultant at Aurora Strategy Group, who spearheaded the effort for Black organizations to meet with Parliamentarians in Ottawa, which is in its fourth year. This year marked the effort’s first sit-down as a group with the prime minister, according to Ms. Gooch.

Among their asks was a call to increase Black representation across government and other arm’s-length institutions and to level the playing field in competing for federal procurement contracts. “We want it to be closer to the representation of Black Canadians in population,” Ms. Gooch said. “There’s often a lot of stages involved and red tape, and not a very large understanding of the processes.”

One proposal floated by the collective was to change the points system for awarding tenders, giving firms with a diverse workforce more points.

Black Canadians account for more than 3.5 per cent of the population and 15.6 per cent of visible minorities, according to Statistics Canada. The agency projects that, by 2036, the community might represent between five and 5.6 per cent of Canada’s population.

Public Services and Procurement Canada does not currently have disaggregated data that breaks down the contracts “awarded to specific groups, outside of Indigenous companies,” according to a departmental spokesperson. But the spokesperson noted its Office of Small and Medium Enterprises “is increasing activities across the country to diversify the Canadian bidders and suppliers represented,” and will be on hand at the National Black Canadians Summit in Halifax in March, organized by the Michäelle Jean Foundation, to offer workshops on the procurement process.

Anecdotally, Ms. Ahmed Omer said her organization has observed that Black businesses tend to employ two to three people. “If we’re able to increase that, from two to three, to four to five, that micro change would allow for a macro impact,” she said.

“We got a lot of time with the prime minister. We asked for a response on some of the metrics we’re looking to track the success in the work they’re doing,” Ms. Kayabaga said. “It was more than a photo-op.”

In 2019, the government committed to spend $25-million over five years “for projects and capital assistance to celebrate, share knowledge, and build capacity” in Canada’s Black Canadian communities. The previous year it also recognized the UN International Decade for People of African Descent, which wraps up in 2024.

Mr. Fergus pointed to the funding, and the creation of an anti-racism secretariat to oversee the culture in the federal public service, as an outgrowth of the Black Canadian community’s efforts to press the government to respond.

In explaining why he helped facilitate the meeting, Mr. Fergus said, he did not set out to become a standard bearer for the Black Canadian community in its push for equity when he was first elected in 2015. “But when you see this lack of representation, and you hear from communities, ‘Thank God you’ve made it,’ you feel a responsibility to try to open doors.”

Ms. Ahmed Omer said the task before the government now is to ensure programs and services established to help Black Canadians’ businesses scale up have adequate resources, noting that the UN decade, which Canada adopted, outlines a commitment to advancing economic equality.

‘Elephant in the room’ 

The meeting took place several months after news broke in the middle of the federal election campaign that Mr. Trudeau had worn blackface on more occasions than he could recall. While some members of the community believe Mr. Trudeau’s actions reflected a lack of education on racial issues, others argue that the prime minister should have resigned.

Though Mr. Trudeau’s history did not affect the tenor of the meeting, Ms. Gooch said, “it’s always going to be the elephant in the room.”

“The work they’re [Liberals] doing is going to need to speak for itself,” Ms. Gooch said. “Education is likely coming from all the conversations he’s going to be having across communities. The measure of him as a leader is how he grows from that.”

Though the committee does not purport to be fully representative of the Black community, the Federation of Black Canadians faced scrutiny a few years ago from other prominent Black activists, including journalist Desmond Cole, for being seen as cozy with the Liberals after news surfaced that the group was founded by a sitting judge, Ontario justice Donald McLeod, and counted the wife of then-immigration minister, Mr. Hussen, as its member. Both eventually left the group amid criticism.

“You can find a few well-connected Black people and get into a private meeting with them, where we don’t see what you talk about, where we don’t understand which Black people even informed the agenda,” said Desmond Cole in an interview with The Hill Times on the release of his book, The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, in which he dug into the history of the Federation of Black Canadians. “The Liberal Party is completely capable of finding their handpicked, elite class to meet behind closed doors.”

Asked whether such criticism that their ties posed conflicts of interest, Ms. Ahmed Omer said she wasn’t a member of the federation at the time, but that one’s political connections should not bar him or her from participating in “civic duties.”

“We are Black Canadians; we all have a stake in this,” Ms. Ahmed Omer said, adding that the committee’s engagement extended to opposition parties. “I would not agree with the idea that we were too cozy with the Liberals.”

Mr. Fergus dismissed the notion that an individual’s political affiliation bears weight in deciding who he meets with. “I don’t see the relevance of that,” he said. “I have no idea who has ties to the Liberals. This is ridiculous.”

But Ms. Gooch acknowledged that her connections to the Liberal Party didn’t hurt in helping arrange meetings with Parliamentarians.

“All of our communities, political operatives have some sort of political partisan ties. … I try as much as possible to encourage all of these groups to have partisan ties,” she said. “My longtime volunteer and work with the party’s apparatus definitely means I have few numbers to follow up on the logistical side. But across parties, we’ve had a very wide interest in engaging [with us].”

Source: Black Canadian groups call on feds to address economic inequities facing community

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