Paquet et Beland: Le variant Omicron et les boucs émissaires de la CAQ

Good commentary:

Un peu avant Noël, le ministre Jean Boulet, qui est à la fois ministre du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale, et aussi ministre de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, a émis un gazouillis liant la montée des cas du variant Omicron au Québec aux demandeurs d’asile arrivant par le chemin Roxham, en Estrie :

« Le gouvernement fédéral doit prendre ses responsabilités. Il faut fermer le chemin #Roxham. Nous devons tous nous mobiliser devant la remontée des cas de #COVID19 #Ominicron[sic] afin de ne pas surcharger notre système de santé! 
La publication a notamment été reprise par la vice-première ministre et ministre de la Sécurité publique Geneviève Guilbault, et d’autres élus ou membres du personnel politique de la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ).

En plus de propager une fausse inférence selon laquelle les demandeurs d’asile – et, plus largement, les immigrants – sont à la source de la nouvelle vague de COVID-19 que traverse le Québec, ces propos donnent peut-être un avant-goût des stratégies caquistes de rejet du blâme auxquelles on peut s’attendre en cette année électorale.

Bien que cette stratégie fasse partie de la boite à outils de tous les acteurs politiques, le gazouillis du ministre Boulet illustre comment, lorsque la situation se détériore sur le terrain, le gouvernement de la CAQ aime bien mettre la faute sur deux boucs émissaires : les immigrants et le gouvernement fédéral.

Les immigrants : vieux comme le monde

L’utilisation des immigrants comme boucs émissaires, de même que leur représentation comme étant à la source de crises sanitaires, sociales, économiques et linguistiques, sont des constantes de l’histoire humaine. Dès le début de la crise de la COVID-19, des chefs d’état à travers le monde ont utilisé de telles stratégies à saveur xénophobe. Ce fut le cas aux États-Unis lorsqu’on a parlé du « virus chinois », par exemple.

Au Québec, on doit reconnaître que les élus de la CAQ n’ont pas véhiculé un tel discours pendant les premières vagues de la pandémie. La déclaration du ministre Boulet est-elle donc une aberration ? Un simple égarement ? La politisation stratégique et répétée des questions migratoires par le gouvernement caquiste permet d’en douter.

Depuis son virage nationaliste, le parti a soutenu des positions plus restrictives que ses adversaires en matière d’immigration, une stratégie qui a réussi à faire des niveaux d’immigration la question de l’urne lors des élections de 2018. Après son assermentation, le gouvernement de François Legault a continué à mobiliser les enjeux migratoires et ceux liés, à tort ou à raison, aux questions identitaires et linguistiques, afin de consolider sa base électorale.

Si le geste de M. Boulet n’était pas prémédité, il s’inscrit à tout le moins dans la continuité d’une certaine rhétorique de son parti. En tous les cas, son gazouillis n’a pas été retiré à ce jour, malgré les centaines de commentaires négatifs qu’il a générés.

La faute d’Ottawa

L’autre bouc émissaire commode pour la CAQ, c’est le gouvernement fédéral. Ça n’a rien de nouveau dans le contexte du fédéralisme canadien, où les gouvernements provinciaux ont tendance à blâmer Ottawa pour leurs problèmes, même lorsque la responsabilité du fédéral est loin d’être démontrée.

Par contre, puisque l’immigration est maintenant une compétence partagée et que la vision de la CAQ et celle du Parti libéral du Canada sont aux antipodes en ce qui a trait à l’immigration et la diversité culturelle, la critique caquiste des politiques du gouvernement Trudeau est presque inévitable.

Elle l’est encore plus lorsqu’elle concerne le fameux chemin Roxham, qui est devenu le symbole d’une « menace » migratoire. Cependant, la nouvelle entente sur les tiers pays sûrs qu’Ottawa vient de signer avec son homologue américain pour « colmater cette brèche à la frontière » pourrait priver le gouvernement Legault d’une de ses sources habituelles de critique envers le fédéral.

Il y aura sans doute d’autres occasions de critiquer Ottawa, sur d’autres enjeux. Comme c’est le cas pour les immigrants, le gouvernement fédéral est en soi lui aussi considéré par de nombreux caquistes – et bien des Québécois – comme une menace potentielle envers les intérêts et les valeurs du Québec.

Un jeu dangereux pour faire oublier le manque de préparation

S’il est presque devenu une tradition pour chaque gouvernement québécois de critiquer le gouvernement fédéral, les propos du ministre Boulet en ce qui a trait à l’immigration sont particulièrement inquiétants.

Qu’elle ait été planifiée ou non, cette stratégie de rejeter de blâme sur les demandeurs d’asile reste dangereuse, puisqu’elle propage de fausses informations. Il n’y a en effet aucune preuve que les demandeurs d’asile soient responsables, même de façon partielle, de la hausse dramatique des cas de COVID-19 au Québec. En Amérique, en Europe et ailleurs, l’arrivée du variant Omicron est d’abord le fait de voyageurs détenant un passeport et arrivés de façon régulière, comme ce fut le cas pour la propagation des variants précédents ou encore d’autres virus au potentiel pandémique, comme le SRAS.

Le gouvernement Legault peut bien tenter de blâmer les migrants pour la venue d’Omicron, mais la réalité est qu’il s’y est mal préparé, malgré les nombreux signes avant-coureurs en Europe et ailleurs dans le monde.

En matière d’immigration, la stratégie récurrente de rejet du blâme de la CAQ risque aussi d’avoir des effets durables sur la teneur des débats publics. Les recherches sur la politisation de l’immigration ont documenté de façon abondante que les prises de position comme celles du ministre Boulet contribuent à polariser les discours de tous les partis politiques, ce qui peut modifier grandement l’offre politique disponible.

La réaction de Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon, chef du Parti Québécois, l’illustre bien : plutôt que de dénoncer l’inférence du ministre, M. St-Pierre Plamondon a renchéri en affirmant que seule l’indépendance permettrait au Québec de contrôler ses frontières.  Ce faisant, il se trouvait à légitimer les propos du ministre Boulet, même s’ils ne s’appuient sur aucune base factuelle.

Les travaux sur les stratégies partisanes de politisation montrent aussi comment la diffusion par les élus d’informations incorrectes sur l’immigration élargit la fenêtre des discours légitimes et peut valider des positions radicales. Cela contribue à la désinformation, et ultimement à l’érosion de la confiance des citoyens envers l’État.

À court terme, une telle stratégie, avant tout électoraliste, peut sembler une bonne façon pour la CAQ de s’assurer de remporter un nouveau mandat majoritaire en octobre 2022. Il faut pourtant s’inquiéter des conséquences à long terme sur la vie politique et la société québécoises.

Source: https://irpp.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=f538f283d07ef7057a628bed8&id=9829acadf7&e=86cabdc518

Students left in lurch after Quebec private colleges, recruiting firm file for creditor protection

Not all that surprising given the financial incentives involved and the exploitation by some Indian recruiters and likely some private colleges:

Three Quebec colleges and a connected recruiting firm have filed for creditor protection, adding to the uncertainty for hundreds of international students who had already been seeking tuition refunds.

M College in Montreal, CDE College in Sherbrooke and CCSQ, which has campuses in Longueuil and Sherbrooke, all requested protection in a filing in Quebec Superior Court last Friday. The Montreal-based recruiting firm, Rising Phoenix International, also filed for protection.

They are all owned by the Mastantuono family — including Caroline, Christina, Joseph and Giuseppe Mastantuono — under the umbrella name RPI Group.

The request for creditor protection comes a little more than a year after the province suspended 10 private colleges, including M College and CDE college, for what it described as “questionable” recruitment practices for students in India.

The suspension meant the schools were temporarily prevented from accepting certain foreign-student applications. Quebec’s investigation into the 10 colleges revealed shortcomings around recruitment, commercial practices, governance and teaching conditions.

Although the suspension was lifted at the beginning of 2021, hundreds of students faced long delays in obtaining a student visa that would allow them to come to Canada.

Students from India struggle to get refunds

Students pay between $28,000 and $30,000 to attend the colleges, usually over a two-year period, according to court documents. Students from India represent 95 per cent of the 1,177 students at the three colleges.

In December, CBC News reported dozens of students in India had been trying to get their tuition refunded for months after their student visas had been delayed.

Several said their parents had saved for years so they could study abroad. Without a refund, some students said they are unable to apply to other colleges, meaning their academic progress is effectively frozen. Others had to take out loans or work part-time jobs.

According to the application for creditor protection, unpaid tuition fees and refund claims from 633 students against the RPI Group are estimated at nearly $6.4 million.

The document adds that there are “potential additional claims of approximately $5 million from pipeline students awaiting a decision on their student visa application.”

In its application, RPI Group blamed its financial troubles on “a cascade of unfortunate events,” including “the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, untimely and improperly financed expansions, changes to the immigration process for international students, as well as the litigation and public relations issues faced by the group.”

RPI Group’s decision to purchase CDE and CCSQ colleges in June 2020 for $10.9 million also left it vulnerable after subsequent visa delays led students to ask for refunds, the application said.

‘No refunds can be processed at this time’

The application for creditor protection says the colleges are committed to ensuring “the best possible outcomes for all stakeholders, including students and other creditors.”

But a letter to students at CDE College from Joseph Mastantuono, the president of the school, suggests it will be difficult for them to get a refund.

According to the letter, which CBC News has obtained, there is a plan being developed for students close to graduation to help them complete their program.

Other students will have their academic training temporarily suspended to see if a potential buyer for the colleges can be found. Failing that, the students will have to transfer to other colleges.

The letter tells students that it is “within your right to withdraw from your college” but because of its creditor protection filing, “no refunds of tuition can be processed at this time.”

The Mastantuono family is involved in another legal matter involving international students.

In November 2020, investigators with the province’s anti-corruption unit arrested Caroline Mastantuono and her daughter, Christina, for allegedly committing fraud to facilitate the processing of student permit applications while working at the Lester B. Pearson School Board between 2014 and 2016.

Although the allegations occurred before RPI was created, the negative publicity led to creditors backing out or refusing to work with them.

Caroline and Christina Mastantuono deny any wrongdoing and have contested the charges against them. The case is still before the courts.

Source: Students left in lurch after Quebec private colleges, recruiting firm file for creditor protection

Lise Ravary: Disparaging laïcité is Canada’s new national sport [disparaging multiculturalism is Quebec’s national sport]

Far too many Quebec commentators (and some English commentators) mischaracterize multiculturalism as an “anything goes” type policy, when fundamentally it is about civic integration and full participation of minorities in social, economic and political spheres. Multiculturalism takes place within the context of integration into either English or French communities:
A teacher who wears a hijab was hired by an English public school in Chelsea, in Western Quebec, despite the fact that the law forbids teachers to wear religious symbols at work. As expected, the school board had no choice but to apply the law. But why was she hired in the first place?

Many think it was a set-up job to embarrass Quebec and pressure Ottawa to act.

Source: Lise Ravary: Disparaging laïcité is Canada’s new national sport

Raj: Quebec is using the Constitution to take away the rights of minorities. What if that becomes the norm?

Good question although the solution of opening the constitution to provide “guardrails” for use of the notwithstanding clause would be opening a Pandora’s box given that other issues would emerge, not to mention garnering sufficient provincial support:

Fatemeh Anvari has started a national conversation.

The school teacher in Chelsea, Que., removed from her classroom this month because of her hijab, has put a face to Bill 21, the Quebec law that prevents those wearing religious symbols from holding certain public-sector jobs.

The law is popular in Quebec, where Premier François Legault defended it again Monday as reasonable and important to ensure secularism and the appearance of neutrality.

“People can teach if they take off their religious symbol while they teach, and when they are in the streets, at home, they can wear a religious symbol,” Legault told reporters.

The shocked parents of students at Chelsea Elementary School want to use their outrage to cast a light on Bill 21’s injustice.

But a Quebec Liberal MP hopes Anvari’s case prompts broader thinking. Anthony Housefather wants a national discussion on the use of the notwithstanding clause, and how to prevent the majority from using its position to curb the rights of minorities.

Anvari lost her ability to teach because Legault pre-emptively used the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ notwithstanding clause, section 33, giving the Quebec government the ability to trample on fundamental rights and shield its action from the courts. (It is doing so again with language Bill 96.)

“I’m not naïve about it,” the Mount Royal MP told me. Amending the Constitution to add parameters around the clause or eliminate it completely requires the approval of at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the Canadian population. The only other direct option would be Ottawa’s power of disallowance, last used to invalidate provincial law in 1943.

Source: Quebec is using the Constitution to take away the rights of minorities. What if that becomes the norm?

How the Grinch stole Chanukah: secularism is not a veil for systemic racism

Legitimate observation on timing, whether this was intentional or blindness:

In the same week that an elementary school teacher was removed from her classroom in Quebec for wearing a hijab, the Legault government announced it will loosen the rules for indoor gatherings right in time for Christmas.

I hate to be a Grinch, but in this multi-faith household as we put away the menorah and bring out the Christmas lights, I question when Quebec will stop pretending to be a secular society.

What a coincidence that at this time last year, the CAQ also considered allowing larger gatherings for Christmas, right when holidays from other faiths, such as Chanukah and Diwali, had ended. 

The Legault government preaches about separation between church and state, puts into law Bill 21 preventing public servants (teachers, police, judges, etc.) from wearing religious symbols, and insists that systemic racism is not an issue in Quebec; yet we are expected to believe that loosening of public health measures on Dec. 23 is linked to the state and not the church.

Quebec is not a religiously neutral society; it is a Catholic-based society. Its institutions close for Christmas and Easter; countless streets, towns, hospital, and schools are named after saints; and the crucifix that hung prominently in the national assembly for decades was only recently removed, following much debate and push back. 

Even Bill 21, an act respecting the laicity of state, accommodates those who practice the Catholic faith, since donning a cross around the neck can be concealed, unlike a hijab, turban, or kippah worn on the head.

As this questionable bill impede the lives of marginalized Quebecers, the CAQ government dares, once more, to tempt pandemic fate in the name of Christmas.

Linking new rules for private gatherings to one specific holiday will, of course, never be publicly stated. Instead, it is conveniently suggested that the timing is due to a stabilization in the number of hospitalizations, the fact that the Omicron variant is not circulating widely in the province, that children over five are now being vaccinated. 

This pandemic has brought many issues to light, including the value of critical thinking. Much information is believable when taken at face value, but even evidence-based facts, like statistics, can be misleading when twisted the right way. 

There is no denying that Quebec has done well in its vaccination and public health efforts, but as the world grapples with mutations of a virus that aims to outsmart us, are we to naively believe that this province will be spared because it is Christmas?

Making progress in halting a global pandemic is hardly an excuse for loosening rules, which miraculously coincide with the birth of Jesus. 

If we really want to understand secularism, pay attention to COVID-19, which makes no distinction for any faith in its path of destruction. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus … one multicultural society battling this virus together.

As the candles go out on Chanukah and the Christmas trees light up, let’s be reminded that a secular society caters not to any one faith. Secularism, Mr. Legault, is not a vail for systemic racism.

Susan Mintzberg is a PhD candidate in social work at McGill University. Her research focuses on the role of family caregivers in mental health care.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/12/13/how-the-grinch-stole-chanukah-secularism-is-not-a-vail-for-systemic-racism.html

Wiseman: Redistributing seats in the House of Commons

Punchy commentary:

When governments redistribute seats in the House of Commons, they often claim they are doing what the public wants or acting in the interests of fairness. When Mike Harris’ Conservative government reduced the number of MPPs at Queen’s Park in 1996, they labelled their bill the Fewer Politicians Act. When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives increased seats in the Commons in 2011, they branded their bill the Fair Representation Act. To be consistent, Jim Flaherty, John Baird, and Tony Clement, senior cabinet ministers in both governments, ought to have termed their federal bill the More Politicians Act.

As required by law and shifts in the population, Elections Canada has determined that the House ought to expand by four seats, from 338 to 342, adding three seats for Alberta, one each for Ontario and British Columbia, and reducing Quebec’s seats by one, from 78 to 77.

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Rather than constantly enlarging the House as two acts of Parliament require—the 1985 grandfather clause and the 2011 representation rule—Parliament ought to keep to the constitutional principle established at Confederation: proportionate provincial representation. The only exception is the “senatorial clause,” added to the Constitution by Westminster in 1915, entitling provinces to no fewer MPs than Senators. Changing that rule requires the unanimous consent of the provinces and Parliament, an impossibility.

Parliament ought to repeal both the “grandfather clause” and the “representation rule.” Neither required the consent of provinces and neither requires provincial consent for revocation. Parliament should also consider reducing and fixing a permanent number of seats. If the United States can manage with 435 Congressional representatives for 334 million people, 250 MPs ought to be sufficient to represent Canada’s 38 million people. MPs fearful of losing their jobs will argue that they are essential to serving their constituents, but more constituency staff could easily do that.

MPs are elected to represent their constituents and the parties under whose banners they run. They are not elected to represent provinces. Senators are appointed to represent provincial interests. Premiers do it especially well. But premiers have no more business in the redistribution of Commons seats than the prime minister has in how seats are distributed in a province. The idea that MPs represent their province holds no water. If it did, MPs would vote along provincial lines. The reality is they vote strictly along party lines. What constituents or provincial legislatures prefer is secondary to the preferences of party whips.

The Bloc Québécois makes much of the fact that Parliament has recognized Quebec as a nation. Quebec Premier François Legault claims “the nation of Quebec deserves a certain level of representation” regardless of its population. This begs some questions including: Should Quebec’s First Nations be entitled to a certain level of representation in the National Assembly regardless of their population since the assembly has assigned the status of “nation” to eleven provincial aboriginal groups including the Inuit, Mohawk, Cree, Algonquin, and Naskapi? Carrying Quebec’s brief, Yves-François Blanchet, whose BQ rejected the 1992 Charlottetown Accord which guaranteed Quebec 25 per cent of Commons seats in perpetuity, is outraged at the prospect of his province losing a seat. He has promised to unleash the “fires of hell” if it does.

Pure laine (dyed in the wool) or de souche (old-stock) francophones may claim to be a nation, but Quebec is merely a territory. Stephen Harper’s description of the Québécois is appropriate: “a unique people bonded together by a common language, culture and history—a nation.” However, increasing numbers of Quebecers, like provincial Liberal leader Dominique Anglade, do not fit that definition. Mordechai Richler, whose writings are set in the province, was dismissed as “not one of us” and not a “real Quebecer” by the co-chair of Quebec’s Commission on the Political and Constitutional Future of Quebec. Jacques Parizeau infamously articulated the distinction between the Québécois de souche and other Quebecers when he declared that “money and the ethnic vote” had determined the outcome of Quebec’s 1995 referendum.

Bloc Québécois founder Lucien Bouchard claimed, “Canada is not a real country” on account of its multicultural complexion, and Quebec’s governments have rejected Canada’s multiculturalism policy. Quebec is certainly not a country and if it can make the claim to nationhood, why should not Saskatchewan? Yes, the French fact makes Quebec—the only jurisdiction on the continent where a majority are francophones—distinctive in a way that Saskatchewan is not, but the language of nationhood is inappropriate for both.

If Quebec must have more MPs than to which it is entitled, let Parliament adopt another feature of the United States Congress: non-voting members. All provinces, except Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia, have lost seats in the past. Quebec is a cry baby in demanding overrepresentation and the federal political parties are too eager to cater to its howls.

Nelson Wiseman is the author of Partisan Odysseys: Canada’s Political Parties(University of Toronto Press).

Source: Redistributing seats in the House of Commons

Wells: And now, the inevitable Bill 21 fight

Usual insightful column by Paul Wells:

Here’s one measure of how little Building Back Better we’re getting done here in the nation’s capital: MPs from different parties and perspectives are having an interesting conversation about important matters. But it’s entirely off-book. It’s spontaneous, the leaders of the various parties didn’t ask for it, and it’s pretty clear they desperately wish it weren’t happening. In Ottawa, saying what you think is an act of rebellion.

The week’s topic is, of course, Quebec’s Bill 21, which forbids hiring public servants, including teachers, who dress incorrectly (“The persons listed in Schedule II are prohibited from wearing religious symbols in the exercise of their functions.”) The bill was introduced in March of 2019 and passed into law soon after. Federal party leaders fielded questions about it in debates during the 2019 and 2021 elections. Each time, Quebec’s premier François Legault got angry at the people who asked the questions. So did federal party leaders, who pay ever-growing hordes of witless staffers to tell them how to move and talk and who cannot for the life of them understand that the rest of us aren’t also conscripts in that effort.

Anyway the inevitable happened. This week news broke that a Grade 3 teacher in the bucolic Quebec town of Chelsea, a stone’s throw from Ottawa, was pulled from class for wearing a hijab. Here’s how it played in one early story: nameless teacher reassigned to “another function” outside the class, school officials shtum on details, shocked community hanging green ribbons.

A chain reaction ensued. Kyle Seeback, a Brampton Conservative MP, kicked it off by tweeting, “I cannot in good conscience keep silent on this anymore… Bill 21 has to be opposed. In court, in the house of commons and in the streets.” Jamie Schmale, Chris Warkentin and Mark Strahl tweeted their agreement.

Seeback’s conscience seems to have gnawed at him after he retweeted a Wednesday-night tweet from the Globe’s Robyn Urback wondering why Catherine McKenna, the former Liberal environment minister, now calls Law 21’s application “appalling” but didn’t, at the time, contradict Justin Trudeau’s milder language in the 2019 and ’21 campaigns. Good for Seeback, actually, for amplifying some snark aimed at a Liberal and then realizing it applied to him too. Soon McKenna and the Conservative MPs had company among Liberals still in caucus: Alexandra Mendes, Salma Zahid, Iqra Khalid, Marc Garneau. Finally a sitting cabinet minister, Marc Miller, called the law’s application “cowardly.” There is also a clip of Chrystia Freeland, the federal Minister of Careful What You Wish For, saying as close to nothing as she can possibly say, a recurring highlight of many recent debates.

I don’t like Bill 21 either. It’s based on silly reasoning—“the state” must have no religion, so nobody who works for the state may be seen to have any religion. This is like saying the state has no particular height, so public servants must be required to hover above the ground. Somewhere around here there’s an old column I wrote patiently explaining this logic and its heritage in the receding role of the Catholic church in Quebec society, a column some of my Toronto colleagues still enjoy mocking, but there’s a difference between understanding the argument and buying it. On a list of the top, say, thousand problems facing modern Quebec, “teachers in head scarves” would not appear. And one of the most obvious things we can say about this law is that the costs it imposes—in personal freedom, economic opportunity, social ostracism—is essentially never borne by people named Tremblay or Côté or Wells. Somehow the burden seems to land reliably on people named—well, in the current instance, on Fatemeh Anvari. About whom more in a moment.

I have also never felt that Bill 21 reveals some universal moral failing of “Quebec.” Every criticism I can level against this law has been levelled, many times, by Quebecers, including several of the Liberal MPs who ran out of patience yesterday; the Quebec Liberal and Québec Solidaire parties, which between them won more votes than Legault’s party did in 2018; an impressive selection of municipal politicians and commentators in, mostly, Montreal; and Judge Marc-André Blanchard of Quebec Superior Court, whose ruling struck down parts of Bill 21 and exclaimed his helplessness with regard to the rest: he plainly doesn’t like the thing, but Legault’s use of the constitution’s “notwithstanding” clause protects most of the law from legal challenge or judicial invalidation. Solid majorities in Quebec have supported the law in polls, but I’m not sure how long that will last, and since the law’s Charter-proofing provisions must be renewed every five years in the National Assembly, I’m not sure the law itself will last long either. I reject the notion that only Quebecers may have an opinion on the thing, because of course everyone can have an opinion on anything. But the conversation among Quebecers is plenty multifaceted already.

A few points of context. First, the provisions of the law, as they apply to the Western Quebec School Board which employs Fatemeh Anvari, have already been struck down. Minority-language education rights are notwithstanding-proof, and Judge Blanchard did to the provisions regarding English school boards what he plainly wished he could do to the whole law. Legault’s government appealed the ruling, and under Quebec law the provisions remain in place pending appeal, but Legault will lose the appeal and by next year, there may be no remaining barrier to teachers in hijabs teaching in Quebec’s English-language schools. This doesn’t help the rest of the province, at least not immediately, but it sets up two cases that parents will be able to observe and compare. Which is a ball that can bounce in many different ways over time.

Second, in interviews Anvari is plainly rattled by a situation she should not be in. But neither is she fired nor banished to the furthest reaches of her school’s steam-pipe trunk distribution venue. As the Lowdown’s excellent story notes, she’s been assigned to lead “a literacy project for all students [that] will target inclusion and awareness of diversity.” This is not as good as simply letting her teach the curriculum would have been, if the law had permitted it, but it shows considerable wit. Again, in a complex society, citizens respond in ways governments often don’t intend and wouldn’t prefer. Governments often don’t take that news well.

Third: those calling on governments to do something, now including members of the federal governing caucus, are sometimes short of ideas about what, precisely, to do. Federal lawyers in a court challenge could make no argument that hasn’t already been made—and, largely, rejected by the frustrated Judge Blanchard. Short of reviving the obsolete powers of reservation and disallowance, a step even Pierre Trudeau declined to take against even Bill 101, there’s not much a federal intervention could add.

Is there therefore no point in simply talking, or simply sending federal lawyers to say what lawyers for civil-society groups have already said? No, I think there’s a point, in that it brings government’s actions more closely in line with what are obviously the opinions of the people who compose the government. (Note that there isn’t a single Liberal MP tweeting, “Guys, Bill 21 is great!”) A reduction in the amount of hypocrisy in a system is always welcome and lately well overdue. But as a practical matter, the feds can’t do much to change the situation.

Finally, less important but still worth mentioning: When four Conservative MPs tweeted within minutes about their renewed love of freedom, it was hard to escape the suspicion that there’s something else going on. Perhaps this: those Conservatives are not, by and large, conspicuous Erin O’Toole fans, and many come from ridings where much of the Conservative voter base is spitting mad at O’Toole for perceived softness on vaccine mandates. When Seeback talks about opposing Bill 21 “in the street,” that sure sounds like an echo of the way a lot of people opposed vaccine mandates. MPs who can’t give their voters much satisfaction on the latter are probably grateful for a chance to blow off some steam on the former. That’s not to dismiss or rebut the Bill 21 Freedom Four; it’s just to note that motives are often mixed or additive.

Here’s the thing: in a liberal democracy you can’t keep a cork in everyone’s mouth forever. You shouldn’t try. It’s been fun watching the leaderships of three federal political parties try to deny simple human feelings over an inherently emotional issue. But the fun’s over. Now citizens are going to act like citizens. Always a scary moment for communications professionals.

Dutrisac: De grandes ambitions postnationales [Immigration and Quebec]

Regarding the medium and longer-term impact of increased immigration in the rest of Canada in contrast to relatively static numbers for Quebec, along with some of the fallacies that characterize the government’s reliance on high immigration levels to strengthen the economy and address an aging population.

Le gouvernement Trudeau voudrait bien que le Québec hausse ses seuils d’immigration pour qu’ils se rapprochent des cibles canadiennes, puisqu’Ottawa compte accueillir un nombre record d’immigrants au cours des prochaines années.


Dans une entrevue accordée au Devoir mercredi, le nouveau ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, des Réfugiés et de la Citoyenneté, Sean Fraser, a voulu encourager le Québec à augmenter le nombre d’immigrants qu’il reçoit. « Je crois que le Québec est conscient du besoin de recourir à l’immigration pour s’assurer que les entreprises trouvent des travailleurs », a-t-il déclaré.

Juste avant l’arrivée des libéraux de Justin Trudeau au pouvoir, en 2015, le nombre d’immigrants admis au Canada, sous le gouvernement Harper, variait entre 250 000 et 260 000 par an. En 2019, avant la pandémie, ce nombre était passé à 341 000. Après une chute à 184 000 immigrants en 2020 en raison de la pandémie, les seuils repartent à la hausse pour atteindre 401 000 cette année, 411 000 en 2022 et 421 000 en 2023. Ces derniers chiffres tiennent compte d’un certain rattrapage, mais l’intention, c’est de devenir le gouvernement canadien le plus ambitieux de tous les temps en matière d’immigration, comme l’a signalé le ministre Fraser.

Au Canada anglais, l’organisme Century Initiative tente de convaincre le gouvernement Trudeau d’admettre graduellement de plus en plus d’immigrants pour atteindre les 500 000 en 2026, avec comme objectif ultime de faire passer la population canadienne de 38,5 millions à 100 millions en 2100. Le Canada serait plus fort et aurait plus d’influence sur le plan mondial, avance ce groupe de pression, les Canadiens seraient plus riches, les coffres de l’État seraient mieux garnis, les pénuries de main-d’œuvre ne seraient qu’un mauvais souvenir et le vieillissement de la population serait stoppé.

Ces représentants de l’intelligentsia canadienne-anglaise ne sont pas les seuls à croire que l’admission débridée d’immigrants contribuera à accroître la richesse du pays et à réduire le vieillissement de la population. C’est le discours que tient généralement le milieu des affaires.

Or, comme l’ont montré les chercheurs Parisa Mahboubi et Bill Robson, de l’Institut C.D. Howe, cités par l’économiste Pierre Fortin, l’effet de l’immigration sur le vieillissement de la population est marginal. C’est plutôt la participation accrue des travailleurs de 60 ans et plus, comme au Japon, par exemple, qui est le moyen le plus susceptible de réduire les effets du vieillissement sur le marché du travail et les finances publiques.

À Ottawa, on n’hésite pas à lier l’immigration à un accroissement de la richesse du pays. À cet égard, il ne faut pas oublier que ce n’est pas la grosseur de la tarte qui importe, mais bien la grosseur de la part qui revient à chacun. Autrement dit, c’est le produit intérieur brut (PIB) par habitant dont il faut se soucier. Ainsi, les Néerlandais, dont le pays accueille relativement peu d’immigrants, sont plus riches que les Allemands, qui en ont admis davantage. Il n’y a pas de corrélation.

Quant à l’idée qu’une forte immigration soulagerait les pénuries de main-d’œuvre, c’est « un pur sophisme », nous dit Pierre Fortin. L’immigration accroît le bassin de main-d’œuvre, mais aussi le nombre de consommateurs de biens et de services du commerce et de services publics. Certes, une sélection précise des immigrants peut aider à pourvoir des postes de travailleurs qualifiés en forte demande. Mais augmenter tous azimuts les seuils d’immigration comme le gouvernement Trudeau l’envisage peut accroître le chômage chez les nouveaux arrivants.

La question de la pénurie de logements commence sérieusement à se poser. Comme les immigrants s’établissent en majorité dans les grands centres urbains, une pression intenable s’exerce sur le marché immobilier, comme on peut le constater à Toronto, à Vancouver et, dans une moindre mesure, à Montréal.

C’est sans compter la situation bien particulière du Québec. La politique d’immigration du gouvernement Trudeau fait fi du poids démographique du seul État à majorité francophone de la fédération. S’il fallait suivre le rythme imposé par Ottawa, qui plus est sans qu’il y ait eu de débat, ce n’est pas 50 000 immigrants par an que le Québec devrait accueillir, mais bien 95 000 et davantage, une impossibilité. Déjà, il n’y a pas suffisamment d’immigrants qui choisissent de vivre en français au Québec. Dans le reste du Canada, ce n’est pas un enjeu : tous les nouveaux arrivants, quelle que soit leur langue maternelle, finissent par parler anglais et vivre en anglais. Y compris les francophones, d’ailleurs.

Cette politique d’immigration, poussée par un élan multiculturaliste et postnational, ne convient pas au Québec, qui ne pourra plus très longtemps se contenter de demi-pouvoirs en matière d’immigration.

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/editoriaux/653859/ottawa-et-l-immigration-de-grandes-ambitions-postnationales?utm_source=infolettre-2021-12-11&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne

Raj: Erin O’Toole denounces religious persecution abroad. Why can’t he do it in Canada?

Good question. And other political leaders need to step up as well:

“I cannot in good conscience keep silent on this anymore,” Conservative MP Kyle Seeback tweeted Thursday morning. “This is an absolute disgrace. It’s time politicians stood up for what’s right. Bill 21 has to be opposed. In court, in the house of commons and in the streets.#bill21mustgo #cdnpoli

It was an unusual statement from a Conservative MP, and a risky one. This is not Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s position on Quebec’s controversial law, which bars individuals who wear religious symbols from holding certain jobs in public institutions. Since his election as leader, O’Toole has defended Quebec’s right to enact such discriminatory legislation. After his first meeting with Quebec Premier François Legault, back in September 2020, O’Toole pledged not to challenge Bill 21 in court. “We need a government that respects provincial autonomy and provincial legislatures,” he told reporters.

For the MP for Dufferin—Caledon to go out on such a limb publicly, amid a climate of fear and retribution (O’Toole’s team has threatened caucus expulsions to those who don’t toe the party line), is commendable. Behind closed doors, Tory MPs tell me Seeback has been pitching to caucus and to the party leadership that a strong position denouncing Bill 21 is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart political thing to do.

While his pleas resonate with some of his colleagues, they don’t appear to have nudged his leader.

But Seeback, who declined an interview request, is right. Opposing Bill 21 is a great wedge against the Liberals on an issue where the Tories desperately need to rebrand, and in an area of the country where they need to win.

The Conservatives have a GTA problem and a visible-minority problem. Out of the 56 ridings in the Greater Toronto Area, the Conservatives hold six (although all but two are located on the periphery), while the Liberals have 50. It wasn’t always this way. In 2011, Stephen Harper found his majority in the GTA, sweeping the ethnically diverse areas of Brampton and Mississauga.

But over the past decade, the Tories pursued policies that alienated many of these communities. From immigration minister (now Alberta Premier) Jason Kenney’s niqab ban during citizenship ceremonies, to the barbaric practices snitch-line, to leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch’s values test, to the Tories fervent opposition to M-103, a motion denouncing Islamophobia.

In 2015, Brampton and Mississauga showed Harper the door. Seeback lost his seat in Brampton West. The same happened in 2019, and again in 2021.

Source: Erin O’Toole denounces religious persecution abroad. Why can’t he do it in Canada?

Quebec teacher removed from classroom because she wears a hijab

Hopefully, personal stories like this can shift public discussion in Quebec although doesn’t seem likely:

A teacher in Chelsea, Que., has been removed from her Grade 3 classroom because the hijab she wears contravenes the province’s law on state secularism, sparking an outcry among local families and a range of Canadian politicians who have denounced the legislation as “discriminatory.”

Fatemeh Anvari had been teaching language arts at Chelsea Elementary School since late October. She was reassigned to another role focusing on literacy and inclusion in early December, when the Western Quebec School Board became aware that her presence in class violated provincial law, interim chair Wayne Daly said.

Quebec’s Bill 21 has been in place since June, 2019. It bars a range of public servants in authority roles, including teachers, from wearing visible religious symbols.

Although Ms. Anvari has become a focal point in a long-running debate about religion in Quebec’s public sphere, she said she has been heartened by the response from community members and wants to use this moment to raise awareness about the need to express oneself in the workplace.

“I was sad, but at the same time I find it empowering to get so much support,” she said in an interview. “This isn’t about me so much. It’s a human issue.”

The 27-year-old has worn the hijab since she was young. She previously taught English in Iran and began supply-teaching at the Western Quebec School Board in March. She believed Bill 21 didn’t apply to English schools, and no one raised possible legal issues with her until recently, she said.

“There were no comments, there were no issues, there was no hostility.”

In her new role with the school, she will still be interacting with students, speaking to them about the value of diversity and inclusion. She feels it’s a testament to the board’s support that they offered her the job.

“I think the board is doing this initiative to spread awareness,” she said.

Parents and students have been protesting the decision to remove Ms. Anvari by tying green ribbons to a fence outside the school. Nicole Redvers said her eight-year-old daughter was deeply upset when she learned she would be losing a teacher she loved.

“She said, ‘Mum, she’s only wearing a scarf!’” Ms. Redvers recalled.

It remains unclear how Ms. Anvari was hired with the secularism law in place. Mr. Daly said it “may have been an oversight.”

In April, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) won a court ruling exempting it from Bill 21 because the law violated the English-language community’s rights. But the provincial government appealed, and the restrictions remained in place. In November, the EMSB was denied a stay of the law while the appeal proceeds.

Federal parties have generally been cautious about denouncing the law, which is popular in Quebec, but Ms. Anvari’s removal caused outrage across the political spectrum. In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said “nobody in Canada should ever lose their job because of what they wear or their religious beliefs,” adding that “Quebeckers are defending their rights through the courts.”

“I think it’s cowardly,” said Marc Miller, a Liberal MP and the Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister. “It’s disheartening and it’s picking on someone vulnerable.“

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole offered a milder response, calling it “an issue that is best left for Quebeckers to decide.” But one member of his caucus, Ontario MP Kyle Seeback, lashed out at the law on Twitter.

“I cannot in good conscience keep silent on this anymore,” he wrote. “This is an absolute disgrace. It’s time politicians stood up for what’s right.”

The Western Quebec School Board, which serves anglophones and opposes Bill 21, has said it had no choice but to comply with the law when it realized Ms. Anvari was teaching in a hijab.

“It was the correct ruling under Bill 21, we cannot have this teacher in our school board if they will not comply with Bill 21,” Mr. Daly said. “She had decided that she would not comply with Bill 21, and in not complying that is justification for termination of a contract.”

The interim chair added that Bill 21 hurts the school board by denying it teachers during a labour shortage, and that the need to apply the law has left the community “outraged.”

“It doesn’t matter what nation you’re from or what race they belong to. If you’re part of that community, you’re part of that community.”

In Quebec City, several politicians put the responsibility for the situation on Ms. Anvari herself. Parti Québécois secularism critic Pascal Bérubé said that she “tried to make a statement wearing a hijab.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-quebec-teacher-removed-from-classroom-because-she-wears-a-hijab/