Loi 21: Trudeau dénonce, sans plus

Of note (see Andrew Coyne: Will leaders tolerate religious segregation just because it’s Quebec?):

La loi québécoise sur la laïcité a rattrapé Justin Trudeau sur le toit de l’ambassade canadienne à Washington, jeudi.

Mais le premier ministre s’est, une fois de plus, contenté de dénoncer la loi du gouvernement Legault, sans dire ce qu’il ferait pour la contrer.

La question est venue en toute fin de point de presse, après une journée à rencontrer le président Donald Trump et des politiciens américains pour discuter de la ratification du nouvel ALENA.

Pourquoi M. Trudeau n’a rien dit depuis l’adoption à Québec du projet de loi 21 ?

« Ma perspective et mes opinions là-dessus ont toujours été très claires », s’est défendu le premier ministre.

« Je suis évidemment préoccupé par une atteinte aux droits fondamentaux des Canadiens », a-t-il ajouté.

Mais pas plus que ses ministres, cette semaine à Ottawa, n’a-t-il voulu dire ce que son gouvernement ferait concrètement pour répondre à cette « atteinte aux droits fondamentaux ».

Lorsque le projet de loi était débattu à Québec, on refusait à Ottawa de dire si on songeait à se joindre à un recours devant les tribunaux pour l’attaquer. On disait attendre de voir le contenu final de la loi une fois adoptée.

Au lendemain de l’adoption de la loi, le ministre fédéral de la Justice, David Lametti, n’avait toujours rien à dire de plus.

« On va regarder ce qui se passe sur le terrain. Aussi on va prendre le temps pour étudier les amendements qui ont été ajoutés à la loi. Et on va agir d’une façon prudente », disait le ministre Lametti lundi.

Il refusait toutefois d’exclure une intervention éventuelle de son gouvernement devant les tribunaux.

« Nous allons sûrement nous assurer que nos opinions soient bien connues et nous continuerons à défendre les droits des Canadiens », a répété, de son côté, M. Trudeau à Washington, jeudi.

Le journaliste lui a alors demandé s’il était temps de faire disparaître la clause dérogatoire.

Le premier ministre a préféré ne pas répondre à cette question.

Source: Loi 21: Trudeau dénonce, sans plus

Le Canada s’excusera auprès des Italo-canadiens

This has been a long festering issue among some in the Italian Canadian community (former PM Mulroney made an unofficial apology at a luncheon in 1990, not in Parliament):

Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau a indiqué que le gouvernement fédéral s’engage à présenter des excuses officielles aux Italo-canadiens maltraités au pays au cours de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

« Nous devons faire face au chapitre sombre de l’histoire de notre pays, a-t-il déclaré vendredi. Les Italo-canadiens vivent avec ces souvenirs depuis de nombreuses années. »

M. Trudeau en a fait l’annonce vendredi à Vaughan, en Ontario, lors d’un événement visant à célébrer le Mois du patrimoine italien.

Il a affirmé que pendant la guerre, les familles et les entreprises italo-canadiennes avaient souffert et que personne n’a été tenu responsable.

« C’était une période durant laquelle leur patriotisme était mis en doute et leurs vies plongées dans le chaos, a-t-il soutenu. Pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, des centaines d’Italo-canadiens ont été internés. »

M. Trudeau n’a pas révélé quand les excuses officielles seraient faites, mais il a dit qu’elles aideront à panser les plaies de la communauté.

Il a également annoncé que le gouvernement fédéral ouvrirait un centre d’affaires permanent à Milan, en Italie.

M. Trudeau n’a pas fourni plus de détails, mais il dit que le centre veillera à ce que l’avenir soit brillant entre le Canada et l’Italie.

Source: Le Canada s’excusera auprès des Italo-canadiens

Chantal Hébert: Trudeau has a choice to make about Quebec’s secularism debate

Indeed:

It is not only on the pipeline front that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a politically critical call to make in the lead-up to the upcoming federal campaign.

At some point in the not-so-distant future, he will have to decide whether to become more actively involved in Quebec’s ongoing secularism debate. That time is almost upon his government.

On Thursday, a Quebec parliamentary commission held its final day of public hearings on Bill 21. By all indications, the law that would forbid public sector workers in so-called positions of authority from wearing religious symbols will be on the books before the National Assembly adjourns for the summer next month.

Under the legislation, it will become a condition of employment for future police officers, prison guards, judges, Crown prosecutors and public schoolteachers to abstain from wearing religious symbols in their workplaces.

On the day Premier François Legault introduced the bill, Trudeau came out swinging. The prime minister has consistently argued that it is wrong and unnecessary to curtail the freedoms of religious minorities in the name of ensuring the secular character of Quebec’s public institutions.

Since then, a cone of silence has fallen on the federal capital.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and his NDP counterpart Jagmeet Singh both say they disapprove Quebec’s state-enforced approach to secularism.

But inasmuch as they do not reflect the views of all their Quebec MPs, neither is eager to prod Trudeau into more forceful action.

According to sources in the Quebec government, the prime minister is reserving his definitive decision as to the federal way forward until Bill 21 has been passed into law.

One option could see Trudeau turn to some rarely used sections of the Constitution to block the legislation. He could also refer the bill to the Supreme Court for an opinion, or have the federal government intervene in support of the groups that are already lining up to fight it in court.

Although Legault has pre-emptively used the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution to shelter Bill 21 from a Charter challenge, there remain a number of legal avenues open to its opponents.

Meanwhile, appeals for a forceful federal intervention — from both within and outside Quebec — have been few and far between

By comparison to the vocal debate that attended the Parti Québécois attempt to legislate on the same issue only six years ago, the discussion of Bill 21 has been, if not serene, at least less acrimonious than the previous instalment.

There are reasons for this difference.

The PQ charter covered every single public service worker — from child care workers to hospital orderlies.

Bill 21 only applies to a handful of groups, and mostly to future hires. It grandfathers the right of existing employees to wear religious symbols for as long as they continue to hold their current positions.

The 2013 charter was introduced by a minority Parti Québécois government looking for a springboard to a majority.

Between the time that charter was introduced and the election that ended in defeat for the PQ half a year later, the secularism issue remained at centre stage at the expense of all other provincial initiatives.

Legault, by comparison, is in the first months of a four-year term. He has time on his side.

Even as it has been steering Bill 21 through the National Assembly, the Coalition Avenir Québec government has not allowed it to come across as a raison d’être.

And then battle fatigue has set in. Quebecers have been discussing the place of religious symbols in the public space for more than a decade.

By now, everyone has had his or her say and most have chosen a side, with little middle ground between the two camps.

On that basis, the committee hearings on Bill 21 — even as they allowed for an airing of contrary views — featured few if any surprises.

Seven of the 36 organizations initially invited to testify declined to participate.

For different reasons, Charles Taylor and Gérard Bouchard, the two leading Quebec public intellectuals whose commission report a decade ago set off the debate over the banning of religious symbols, both profoundly dislike Bill 21.

Taylor has come to feel no legislation is the better option. Bouchard argues that expanding the religious symbols ban to teachers goes much too far.

But by now, the genie will not be put back in the bottle, at least not by those who initially let it out.

If one had to single out one takeaway from the committee hearings, it is that the political ship of Bill 21 — at least in the eye of both its fans and its detractors — has already sailed.

If Trudeau has been keeping his finger on the Quebec pulse since the debate that has polarized his home province for a decade resumed, he will allow that ship’s next port of call to be a court of law and not the federal campaign trail.

Source: Chantal Hébert: Trudeau has a choice to make about Quebec’s secularism debate

Urback: If Trudeau takes his own advice, he will take a stand against Quebec’s religious symbols ban: Robyn Urback

Valid test:

October 2018 was less than two years after a madman named Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire in a Quebec mosque, killing six people. And October 2018 was the same month a gunman walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue and opened fire, killing 11. By that time, reported hate crimes in Canada had reached an all-time high, with every other week bringing a new report about hateful vandalism appearing in public spaces.

October 2018 was also the last time Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in at length on the plan by Quebec Premier FrançoisLegault to implement a ban on religious symbols worn by public servants — a xenophobic dog whistle, for those trained to hear the call.

Not unlike the proposed “values charter” tabled by the Parti Québécois under Pauline Marois, Legault’s religious symbols ban will prohibit teachers and other provincially employed “authority figures” from wearing symbols of faith on the job.

While its defenders point out that the ban will apply to Christians as much as Muslims, Sikhs and Jews — though the crucifix hanging in Quebec’s National Assembly will stay in place, for now — the message is clear in the context of Quebec’s enduring anxieties over immigration and diversity. A province obsessed with maintaining its language and culture is not drawing up legislation to rid the public sector of tiny crosses worn around teachers’ necks.

So back in October, Trudeau issued a warning. When asked about Legault’s threat to use the charter’s notwithstanding clause to implement the ban, Trudeau said: “It’s not something that should be done lightly, because to remove or avoid defending the fundamental rights of Canadians, I think it’s something with which you have to pay careful attention.”

Trudeau also said, ostensibly in reference to clothing such as hijabs, that the state should not “tell a woman what she can or cannot wear.”

It was tepid language for a nakedly bigoted proposal — strikingly so, especially when viewed through the lens of today, after the monstrous act of violence and hatred carried out in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.

The attack on two mosques there last Friday, which left 50 people dead and dozens more injured, struck a nerve globally in a way the Quebec mosque shooting simply did not. Perhaps it was because of the scale of the violence, or in part because the massacre was live streamed on social media, but the Christchurch attack appears to have catalyzed action worldwide.

Here in Canada, the response was swift. The Liberals on the Commons justice and human rights committee, which had been investigating the SNC-Lavalin affair, shut down its inquiry and took up an investigation on how to stem hate crimes in Canada. Cabinet ministers started showing up at mosques to demonstrate their solidarity with the Muslim community. And the prime minister delivered an impassioned 17-minute speech in the House of Commons about the need to speak out against hatred and discrimination.

“The problem is not only that politicians routinely fail to denounce this hatred — it’s that, in too many cases, they actively court those who spread it,” Trudeau said at one point, taking a not-so-subtle shot at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

“To politicians and leaders around the world: the dog whistle politics, the ease with which certain people choose to adopt extremist ideology — it has to stop.”

Trudeau went on:

“Politicians stand around, and we offer our condolences, and we say nice things in the aftermath. We say that we’ll do better. We say that never again will such hatred be allowed to fester unchallenged. And then, when the flames die down, and the smoke clears, we look the other way.”

Not looking the other way

Legault has signalled he will table his religious symbols ban sometime this spring. If passed, it will essentially allow the state to discriminate against job applicants because of what they wear for their faith. Vigilante enforcement is sure to follow, given that the province says it will grandfather in workers who already wear religious symbols, though the public will have no way of knowing whether a hijab-wearing teacher, for example, has been granted an exception, or if she is breaking the rules.

So here is an opportunity for Trudeau to put his preaching into practice. It’s easy to call out hatred when it is blatant: an anti-Muslim screed on an online message board or a swastika painted on the side of a building. It is also easy to insist we must speak out against bigotry and xenophobia as general concepts, from a nonspecific source.

It is much more difficult, however, to call out dog whistles and subtle efforts at division and prejudice. Especially in an election year. Especially when it comes from Quebec.

I hold little hope that Scheer is capable of doing so; based on recent appearancesand performances, it’s likely he would short-circuit, smile awkwardly and later insist that he didn’t hear the question. But Trudeau stood in the House of Commons earlier this week and specifically called on politicians to own their influence.

To repeat Trudeau’s words: “Politicians stand around, and we offer our condolences, and we say nice things in the aftermath. We say that we’ll do better. We say that never again will such hatred be allowed to fester unchallenged. And then, when the flames die down, and the smoke clears, we look the other way.”

The flames may die down and the smoke clear by the time Legault tables his legislation. Trudeau’s message that politicians should not allow hatred to fester unchallenged is a necessary one. Yet his anemic response when the topic came up in October was the moral equivalent of looking the other way. In the aftermath of the New Zealand massacre, we should hope that he finally takes his own advice.

Source: If Trudeau takes his own advice, he will take a stand against Quebec’s religious symbols ban: Robyn Urback

Chris Selley: Here’s why Justin Trudeau’s identity-politics troubles were inevitable

Identity politics is practiced by all political parties, the variation lies more with respect to which identities they are trying to court compared to others.

That being said, Selley notes correctly some of the risks.

And it is amazing the extent to which the PM appears to have destroyed whatever remained of his brand over the past week: “sunny ways,” transparent government, gender equality and Indigenous reconciliation:

One assumes Jody Wilson-Raybould would prefer still to be Canada’s Minister of Justice. But there are certainly worse ways to go out. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau squirms before the cameras, mooting unsatisfying explanation after unsatisfying explanation as to just what transpired between his office and Wilson-Raybould in the matter of the SNC Lavalin prosecution, she’s practically soaked to the bone with praise.

There are serious questions as to how Wilson-Raybould could have stayed on in cabinet, or indeed not resigned as soon as the bad thing happened — whatever it was, assuming it happened. But when she finally threw in the towel on Tuesday, even NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh lauded her record: “Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous woman AG of Canada, fulfilled her duties with courage and conviction,” he tweeted. “She spoke truth to power and in return she was fired by PM Trudeau.”

One notes Singh praised her record as Attorney-General, not as Justice Minister. Had Wilson-Raybould been shuffled to another relatively high-profile portfolio instead of being kicked down the stairs, the dominant narrative might have concerned what a terribly disappointing Justice Minister she was: Among many other complaints are the insane, likely unconstitutional impaired driving law and inaction on mandatory minimum sentences and victim surcharges, each of which is likely to disproportionately affect Indigenous and other visible minority Canadians; and of course, the continued wildly disproportionate number of Indigenous defendants and prisoners.

Indeed, Wilson-Raybould had plenty of Indigenous critics when she was in office. Now the dominant narrative is that her firing represents a major repudiation of Trudeau’s reconciliation agenda. It’s more than passing strange, but that’s the politics we have right now: Anywhere centre or left of centre, one’s identity and background count massively in or against your favour. That being the case, the Liberals’ current travails seem almost inevitable.

Trudeau’s first cabinet featured some very impressive resumes from a wide variety of people — but it was “because it’s 2015” that knocked half of Canada down in a swoon. From Day One, there were obvious questions: Why no black cabinet ministers? Why so many Sikhs? Why privilege one kind of proportional representation above another? Liberals waved such complaints away like mosquitoes: Can’t you people just enjoy a landmark achievement from a government that means well?

Well, no. Love identity politics or hate it, that’s not how it works. Eventually it was bound to fall apart. We’re seeing it right now.

At his Tuesday press conference, Trudeau repeatedly referred to Wilson-Raybould as “Jody” and Harjit Sajjan, who takes over from her at Veterans Affairs, as “Minsiter Sajjan.” To some, this smacked at worst deliberate sexism, at best of accidental sexism. To many others, this parsing will seem like a petty reach. (He couldn’t very well call her “Minister Wilson-Raybould,” could he?) But Trudeau can hardly complain. His party banged on forever about how disrespectful it was for the Conservatives to call him Justin.

When an MP or minister (or ex-MP or ex-minister) causes a political leader trouble, what does he do? Same thing an NHL GM does to justify a lousy trade: He has a friendly reporter explain what a nuisance that person was in the locker room. So we have heard various anonymous reports about Wilson-Raybould’s pugnacious, difficult and self-centred performance in cabinet. It’s standard operating procedure — but it’s also anonymously slagging off an Indigenous woman. That doesn’t fly in 2019.

At this point, the Wilson-Raybould demotion looks like a spectacular unforced error. But it would have taken a very, very different kind of politician to have avoided forever the trouble in which Trudeau now finds himself. Trudeau is not a very different kind of politician, and his staffers are not very different kinds of staffers. Several, including principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford, cut their teeth in the office of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty — another supposed breath of fresh air that went rapidly stale and eventually left everyone at Queen’s Park gagging in a green haze of egg fart. McGuinty’s former deputy chief of staff just got out of jail.

The Trudeau gang does seem to truly believe in their own inherent virtue — that when they call up The Canadian Press to slag off a former cabmin, it’s literally not the same thing as when a Conservative staffer does it. They still seem utterly transfixed by the power of symbolism over action. But that doesn’t help any real people who need real help. Setting aside their words and their symbolic gestures, their actions have been little but conventional.

It’s a great disappointment to many — perhaps not least some of Trudeau’s own cabinet ministers. Several have expressed support and praise for Wilson-Raybould’s works since her resignation. Treasury Board President Jane Philpott even posted a photo of the two together.

It would be easy to read too much into that. But it raises the intriguing prospect that some of Trudeau’s MPs might be truer believers in his agenda than he is. These people were promised “government by cabinet,” after all. If they decide to insist on it, even more interesting days may lie ahead.

Source: Chris Selley: Here’s why Justin Trudeau’s identity-politics troubles were inevitable

Trudeau offers to work with Legault on a temporary reduction in immigration levels

My sympathy for additional funding for asylum seekers is tempered by the fact that the current Canada-Quebec agreement means a further increase despite the drop:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demonstrated a new willingness to help Quebec Premier François Legault temporarily reduce immigration to the province by more than 20 per cent, even as Ottawa promotes higher immigration as the key to a stronger economy.

Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Legault discussed immigration issues Thursday during a private meeting in Sherbrooke, Que., where the federal Liberal cabinet is meeting for a three-day retreat.

Ottawa’s readiness to work with Quebec on its lower targets marks a change in tone for Mr. Trudeau, who had criticized the idea last month.

The two governments agreed that senior ministers will meet later this month in Gatineau to work out a plan. The discussions will also aim to reach a deal on compensating Quebec for its costs related to settling refugee claimants who have crossed into the province from the United States between official points of entry.

More than 90 per cent of the thousands of people who have crossed into Canada between official points of entry over the past two years have done so at Roxham Road in southwestern Quebec near Champlain, N.Y.

The Quebec government is seeking $300-million in compensation from Ottawa, but Mr. Legault said Ottawa is only offering to cover $140-million.

Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who was in Thursday’s meeting with Mr. Legault, told reporters that reducing immigration at a time when many Quebec businesses are facing severe labour shortages will be a challenge.

“Squaring that circle isn’t going to be easy,” he said. “We recognize that the Quebec government made a commitment in their election to temporarily reduce immigration levels in Quebec. Immigration in Quebec is a shared jurisdiction. It’s not like in my province of New Brunswick. There is a long-standing agreement that we want to respect between Canada and Quebec.”

Under the terms of a 1991 Canada-Quebec deal on immigration, federal funding to help Quebec integrate immigrants will rise even as the province’s total intake of immigrants declines.

The federal government announced in November that it will gradually raise Canada’s national targets for annual immigration to 350,000 in 2021, from 310,000 this year. It is not clear how Quebec’s reductions will affect Ottawa’s national targets.

Mr. Trudeau did not speak with reporters after meeting with Mr. Legault, but the Premier confirmed that further discussions on immigration will take place soon in Gatineau.

“He didn’t say no,” Mr. Legault said following his meeting with the Prime Minister, in reference to his list of demands related to immigration. “He said he was thinking about it. What we want is before bringing the targets back up in the next few years, that we put in place a French test and a values test.”

Federal Liberals are in Quebec this week to build support ahead of the October federal election. Polls suggest the Liberal Party could pick up seats in the province, which could help offset potential losses in other parts of the country.

Several ministers, including Mr. LeBlanc and Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne, recently toured parts of Quebec to meet with business leaders ahead of the cabinet retreat. They said the clear message is that skills shortages are a major problem.

“Businesses in Drummondville earlier this week told me they’re literally refusing contracts and not accepting sales because they do not have enough employees to properly complete the contract,” said Mr. LeBlanc. “So you can imagine the multiplier effect of that over time, on the economic growth in Quebec, which frankly is something that’s very important for the whole country.”

Mr. Legault said the temporary reduction in immigration – which would apply equally to three categories: economic immigrants, family reunification and refugees – will give Quebec time to ensure that it is bringing in people with the right skills. He also said Quebec wants to ensure its immigrants can speak French and support Quebec values.

Quebec announced in December that it will reduce the number of newcomers to 40,000 in 2019, a 24-per-cent reduction from 2018 levels.

Advocates for immigrants and refugees have called Quebec’s plan cruel. Mr. LeBlanc said last month that Ottawa was “disappointed” by Quebec’s new targets.

Source: Trudeau offers to work with Legault on a temporary reduction in immigration levels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ivison: Trudeau sounds resigned to his inability to solve Canada’s border-crosser problem

Interesting and nuanced commentary, including recognition by the Prime Minister in terms of the limitations:

Justin Trudeau appears to have given up hope of reducing the flow of people crossing from the United States illegally to claim asylum, and is test-driving fresh rationalizations on why a migrant surge might not be such a bad thing. The new line from the Prime Minister is that the flow of asylum seekers may prove an economic boon for Canada.

“The fact that we have extremely low unemployment, we’re seeing labour shortages in certain parts of the country, (means) it is a good time to reflect that we are bringing in immigrants who are going to keep our economy growing,” Trudeau said in a pre-Christmas interview.

The statement came in response to a question about a contention by his predecessor, Stephen Harper, that an immigration system that is legal, secure and economically driven will have high levels of public acceptance, while the “irregular” migration phenomenon has made the system less secure and less economically driven.

It is clear there are labour shortages. A Business Development Bank of Canada study in September found four in 10 small- and medium-sized companies struggling to find new employees. But an orderly immigration system aims to match the skills of newcomers with the demands of employers. The free-for-all at the border is a triage situation. The only thing economically driven about it is the desire of the migrants crossing illegally to have a higher standard of living than they had in their country of origin.

Who can blame them? But it’s no way to run a country.

To claim this abuse of process will help the economy to grow is the latest attempt by the Trudeau government to justify its loss of control over the Canada-U.S. border. In November, Bill Blair, the border security minister, tried to sanitize the situation by pointing out that 40 per cent of migrants crossing illegally are children, suggesting that Canada is merely living up to its human rights obligations.

Neither argument can rationalize a situation where the integrity of the immigration system is being violated.

Trudeau pointed out that the Liberals have injected extra resources ($173 million in budget 2018) to ensure that everyone who arrives in Canada, even if they cross between official border crossings, is given a full security screening. “There are no loopholes or shortcuts, in that our immigration system continues to apply to everyone who arrives in this country,” he said.

This is true. The flow of migrants, mainly from Nigeria and Haiti, is costing the federal government a pretty penny — $340 million for the cohort of migrants who arrived in Canada in 2017, according to a November report by the Parliamentary Budget Office — not to mention straining provincial resources (the PBO estimated a cost of $200 million each for Ontario and Quebec). Such generous provision has attracted yet more asylum shoppers — year-over-year numbers suggest more people crossed illegally into Canada between January and September this year (15,726) than in the same period last year (15,102).

The endless appeals process means there is a massive backlog that is likely to require reform to reduce.

But at least the government has some control over the process once migrants have claimed asylum. When it comes to reducing the number flowing across the border, the Liberals appear accepting of their impotence.

Blair’s mandate letter gave him the lead role in talking to the Trump administration about “modernizing” the Safe Third Country Agreement, which states migrants claiming refugee status must make their claim in the first “safe” country they arrive in — Canada or the U.S.

A family from Haiti approach a tent in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, stationed by Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as they haul their luggage down Roxham Road in Champlain, N.Y., Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

A loophole in the pact with the Americans means it does not apply between official points of entry.

But there appears to have been little progress on closing the loophole since public safety minister Ralph Goodale met then-homeland security secretary John Kelly in March, when they agreed to “monitor the situation” at the land border. Blair visited Washington in November to meet homeland security officials and his office says talks are “ongoing.”

They are likely to remain so.

No matter how much money the government spends trying to process asylum claims, a solution requires cooperation from the Trump administration — and that has not been forthcoming.

Even under Obama, there was no interest in extending the Safe Third Country Agreement to anyone crossing from the U.S. — a move that would increase the number of asylum claimants south of the border. There is likely to be a similar lack of concurrence about joint border enforcement patrols to stop people crossing in the first place.

But the agreement is currently as useless as a pulled tooth. There can be few issues of greater importance in the cross-border relationship and the point should be made forcefully in Washington whenever the Americans want something.

Canada’s consensus on immigration is in jeopardy, as economic migrants ignore this country’s laws and its borders.

Trudeau sounds resigned to being bound in an insoluble quandary. The upshot is that he is trying to promote an uncontrolled migration system as one that is not only orderly, but is of net benefit to Canada.

It is going to be a tough sell.

Source: John Ivison: Trudeau sounds resigned to his inability to solve Canada’s border-crosser problem

The term ‘alt-right’ has become a cudgel against conservatives: MacDougall

Two good op-eds by Andrew MacDougall, calling on both parties to tone down the virtue signalling and name calling:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Gerald Butts, the Prime Minister’s principal secretary, Ahmed Hussen, the federal immigration minister, and Lisa MacLeod, Hussen’s provincial counterpart, walk into a bar and…

Fine. I’ll spare you the joke, which (believe me) requires a mountain of set-up, and instead leave you with the punchline: Lisa MacLeod is a white supremacist!

What? That’s not funny? Well, I suspect that’s in the ear of the beholder. In any case, please direct all complaints to the Prime Minister’s Office, ℅ Mr. Butts, the author of the joke.

To be fair, the Butts quip wasn’t that blunt or direct. He wouldn’t dare call MacLeod a white supremacist outright. His dig was of the dog-whistle variety, one the federal Liberals have been blowing with increasing frequency as we approach the next election. And so let’s just say it wasn’t a surprise to see it deployed following the acrimonious federal-provincial meeting on immigration starring Hussen and MacLeod.

“Enough is enough,” Butts tweeted after the meeting. “It’s time to stand up to this divisive fear-mongering about asylum seekers. Let’s not allow the alt-right to do here what they’re doing elsewhere.”

And what were the particulars of the Hussen-MacLeod dispute, that it devolved to “fear-mongering”? It hardly matters. It’s the use of “alt-right” that’s key. Indeed, it’s the latest slur gifted to the right from the left. That’s why Doug Ford is now “alt-right.” It’s why Andrew Scheer is “alt-right.” And it’s why cookie-baking hockey mom MacLeod is “alt-right,” too.

And as with so much else in the world today, we have Donald Trump to thank for it.

It was Trump who brought the “alt-right”—then, as now, a bunch of white supremacists and violent fascists—into the light. But the President’s tacit acceptance of these “deplorables” gave license to Trump’s political opponents to paint all of his support—the vast majority of which are neither racist or supremacist—with the alt-right brush, especially those who oppose the current immigration system, which no one can describe as perfect. This is the dynamic the Liberals—once the purveyor of sunny ways, let’s not forget—seem to be trying to import into Canada.

Although the migrant problems facing Canada’s borders are nowhere near the scale of those between Mexico and the United States, they are as complex, and nearly as intractable, absent a willing partner in the White House. Hence the PMO’s desire to reach for the shorthand of the “alt-right”: It’s better to brand your opponents than explain why you can’t get the job done.

Because MacLeod is certainly correct that the feds don’t (yet) have a workable plan to stem arrivals at non-designated border crossings. She’s also correct when she says the provinces are bearing a lot of the costs of housing and caring for refugees and asylum seekers. Nor is she the only one raising the alarm; it’s been a constant criticism from the federal Tories as well. No wonder it rankles the PMO. I’d be yelling “alt-right” too, especially if I knew my opponents didn’t have a workable plan either.

Now, Butts doesn’t actually think MacLeod is a noxious white supremacist like Richard Spencer, the lodestar of the U.S.’s alt-right movement. But he is certainly happy to have that association linger in your mind, no matter how untrue or uncharitable it might be. Here, the application of the label “alt-right” is meant to stifle debate on immigration, not encourage it. If there can be no reasonable critique made on immigration then the status quo, no matter how bad, will carry the day.

It’s a trick the right has pulled on the left on many occasions. A school shooting? Can’t criticize the Second Amendment, my fellow American, or else you ain’t a patriot. Or, to pick a less noxious example, any plan by a left-of-centre party to raise a tax—any tax—is evidence of economy-killing communism or socialism. Again, it’s a tactic meant to kill nuance and throttle debate. Just ask Stéphane Dion about his “Green Shift,” aka the “permanent tax on everything.”

The Liberals are clearly casting around for slurs that stick in a similar fashion. They’ve largely leaned on using Stephen Harper’s name as a bogeyman; voters grew tired of the Harper government’s perceived nastiness in the last election, hence the longtime Liberal habit of shouting “Harper” in every crowded theatre. It’s why Trudeau himself fronted the “it may be Andrew Scheer’s smile, but it’s still Stephen Harper’s party” attack line at the recent Liberal convention. Slagging Harper sells.

But it doesn’t work nearly as well when speaking about problems the Liberals have created, like the deficit, or inherited and made worse, like the border. Tweeting “Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” might have won a news cycle, but it’s come back to bite the Liberals in the backside in the form of multiplying “temporary” asylum shelters and an  overwhelmed processing system.

Step forward the “alt-right.” And even if the shoe doesn’t quite fit, the Liberals are going to try their damnedest to make the Conservatives wear it. Because, whether Canadian conservatives like it or not, a lot of their European brethren are piling in against immigration in a nasty fashion. And the reality is that Canada’s vaunted all-party support for immigration might crumble all the same if it faced European-like numbers of asylum seekers, too—just the kind of circumstance that birthed such alt-right movements elsewhere. No conservative party is truly safe.

Nor should liberals rest easy either. The European left is struggling mightily too, and it’s largely because they underestimated the people’s tolerance for an immigration system that clearly could no longer deal with what was coming its way.

To fight back against the alt-right slur, Conservatives in Canada need to do three things: keep supporting much-needed immigration and legitimate refugee claims; avoid hyperbole while making valid criticisms of the government’s actions; and uprooting any actual and visible forms of alt-right support in their party. The Republicans missed their weeding moment; the Tories can’t afford to miss theirs.

Because if they do miss it, it will be Trudeau’s Liberals who have the last laugh—no matter how poor their joke.

Source: The term ‘alt-right’ has become a cudgel against conservatives

And:

…First and foremost, opposition politicians need to stop performing for their bases and begin the challenging task of reaching out to Ford’s supporters. This is both the path to a more civilized discourse, as well as the eventual route back to power.

This isn’t to suggest the opposition remain quiet or docile. Far from it.

Ontario’s system of government requires a strong opposition, especially in holding a majority to account. But a sober critique can land as effectively as a headline-searching cheap shot. Mr. Ford’s support isn’t a monolith; it can be picked off if done reasonably. If he bungles government, people will notice.

And the opposition’s lessons apply equally to the media.

So much of today’s surging populism is fuelled by the sense the arbiters of a society’s discourse – including the press and the politicians they hold to account – are happy to ignore their views. And right now a lot of people are worried about crime and border security. Mr. Ford understands that. Their fears might not necessarily be backed up by statistics, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Here, the sneering tone of journalism on platforms such as Twitter does the profession no favours.

The media need to remain clear-eyed in their work, even if the Premier isn’t their cup of tea. It was a mistake to equate Ford Nation with Mr. Trump and his “deplorables” during the campaign, and it remains a mistake now that Mr. Ford is in government. One thing is certain: The “fake news” drumbeat, still quiet in Canada, will surely grow louder with every unforced reporting error and torqued editorial position.

Premier Ford might not like the press (what politician does), but he isn’t in the class of Mr. Trump. For the moment Mr. Ford is busy running his government, not running against the media. That Mr. Ford doesn’t court or flatter the press shouldn’t count against him, even if it does ultimately make his job more difficult.

For his part, the Premier would do well to keep his ears open to legitimate criticism. Yes, “the People” have spoken and, yes, there are still many promises to keep, but there is also wisdom to be found on all sides. Lashing out at critics isn’t a plan; Mr. Ford must keep his famous temper in check if he is to keep “the People” on his side.

Governing is a marathon, not a race. Mr. Ford won’t secure his re-election in a single day, nor will he be defeated in one. Keeping the hysteria to a minimum gives voters the best chance to make a reasoned decision the next time around.

Ford is not Trump. Ontario’s opposition would be wise to lower the outrage

What Justin Trudeau had to say at the NATO summit (immigration and diversity)

Not new, but again belies those who believe that he does not believe Canada has an identity:

At a moderated discussion held on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fielded questions on a wide range of issues related to Canada’s membership in the defence alliance—from the level of Canadian military spending, to how the European Union complements NATO, to his expectation of future migrations of people fleeing hardship.

On immigration and diversity as a foundation of Canadian foreign policy.

Trudeau: “We have learned from people who come to Canada [from] everywhere around the world, whether it’s Afghan refugees, whether it’s Syrian refugees recently, or whether it’s some of the previous generations of people fleeing from Uganda in the Idi Amin years, the boat people from Vietnam, or the wave of migrations we got in the post-World War II years from Europe, we understand tangibly how things could be worse and where things have been bad around the world.

And being able to remember that, or reflect on how we can do better, how we can create a society that is based around values and not identity, based around principles and rights, and opportunity, real and fair chances for everyone to succeed— those kinds of principles, I think, are going to be extraordinarily important in the 21st century as we get flows of migrations of people looking for better lives, people fleeing resource depletion, environmental calamities and conflicts.”

Source: What Justin Trudeau had to say at the NATO summit