Andrew Coyne: Federal leaders have capitulated on Quebec’s Bill 21, and to our shame we let them

Hard to disagree:

Elections are defining moments for a nation: in deciding what it stands for, it also decides who and what it is. In the present election the issue on which we are being asked, most directly, to decide where we stand is Quebec’s Bill 21: the provincial law banning public servants “in positions of authority” from wearing religious symbols on the job.

For many observant persons, particularly Muslims, Sikhs and orthodox Jews, this amounts to a religious hiring bar: the wearing of the hijab, the turban and the kippa are key requirements of their faith, and as such core elements of their identity. To demand that they work uncovered is, in effect, to post a sign saying Muslims, Sikhs and Jews need not apply.

We should be clear on this. It’s not just a dress code, or an infringement of religious freedom, or religious discrimination, or those other abstract phrases you hear tossed about. We are talking about a law barring employment in much of the public sector — not just police and judges, but government lawyers and teachers — to certain religious minorities.

Existing workers may have been grandfathered, but only so long as they remain in their current jobs. Should they ever move, or seek a promotion, they will face the same restrictions. The signal to the province’s religious and, let’s say it, racial minorities, vulnerable as they will be feeling already after the mounting public vitriol to which they have been exposed in the name of the endless “reasonable accommodation” debate, is unmistakable: you are not wanted here. Not surprisingly, many are getting out — out of the public service, out of Quebec.

That this is actually happening, in 2019, in a province of Canada — members of religious minorities being driven from their jobs, and for no reason other than their religion — is sickening, and shameful. That shame is not reserved to Premier Francois Legault or his CAQ government, the people responsible for designing and implementing this disgraceful exercise in segregation, this manifestly cruel attempt to cleanse the province’s schools and courts of religious minorities. It is no less shaming to the rest of us, everywhere across Canada, so long as we permit it to continue.

That is, so far as we are capable of feeling it. But experience has taught us to look the other way when it comes to Quebec, to tell ourselves that it is none of our affair, that we must not raise a fuss when the province explicitly elevates the interests of its ethnic and linguistic majority over those of its minorities, or threatens the country’s life for long years at a time — the beloved “knife at the throat” strategy — to back its escalating fiscal and constitutional demands. We dare not. We cannot. For then Quebec would leave.

So shame does not come easily to us as a nation. We have so hollowed out our national conscience over the years that we think nothing now of selling out a persecuted minority, rather than take a stand in their defence. And the proof of that can be seen in the positions of our national party leaders.

It is a sign of how abjectly they have all capitulated to majority opinion in Quebec that Justin Trudeau’s craven wobbling about — “I won’t do anything about it now, but I don’t entirely rule out doing something sometime” is only a slight paraphrase — looks positively Churchillian among them.

All they have been asked to do, after all, is join in support of legal challenges of the legislation’s constitutionality already filed in Quebec’s courts by private groups — actions that, owing to the Legault government’s invocation of the notwithstanding clause, must be considered long shots at best, based on novel interpretations of those sections of the Charter not covered by the clause, or the division of powers, or the clause itself.

But even that, apparently is too much. Asked at the Maclean’s debate whether he would support such a challenge as prime minister, Andrew Scheer babbled his usual babble as to how his party would “always stand up for individual liberties” as if he were not already on the record that, in the matter of Bill 21, they would never do so. Jagmeet Singh, who would be among the first victims of the bill were he to attempt to find work in the Quebec judicial system, denounced the bill as “legislated discrimination,” without committing himself to do anything about it.

And Elizabeth May? Ah, Elizabeth May. Convinced that the bill was “an infringement on individual human rights” but concerned not to “fuel” separatism, the Green Party leader proposed a “solution” where “we leave Quebec alone, but we find jobs for anyone that Quebec has taken off of their payroll for working in a government job.” Moderator Paul Wells sought to clarify: she’d find jobs “for people who have to leave”? Yes, she replied.

But our political leaders are what we make of them. If the leader of the Green Party can declare on national television that she will stand up for Quebec’s religious minorities by giving them bus tickets, and face no political consequences for it whatever, it is because our own moral and intellectual defences against such nonsense have atrophied.

Even today it is possible to read, on the CBC’s website, an explanation of Quebec’s “new” nationalism, with its familiar appeals to fears of immigration and multiculturalism, as being based not on crude prejudice or majoritarian intolerance, but “on a holistic conception of Quebec society that prioritizes the historical experience of francophones.”

It is only in this context that Legault could issue his extraordinary demand that all of the federal party leaders pledge “never” to intervene in any court case regarding Bill 21. There’s no point to this; he knows they won’t dare. He just wants to watch them grovel. But it’s not just their shame he’s rubbing their faces in. It’s ours.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Federal leaders have capitulated on Quebec’s Bill 21, and to our shame we let them

An introduction to the new Quebec nationalism and the tricks it plays on federal leaders

To watch:

Quebec’s Bill 21 was a dominant theme in the first week of the campaign. Here’s why

The opening days of the 2019 election campaign have been marked, above all, by the attempts of federal leaders to navigate the new Quebec nationalism and its most potent expression, a law on secularism.

The main proponent of this resurgent nationalism is the provincial government led by Premier François Legault and his centre-right party, the Coalition Avenir Québec.

And Legault didn’t wait long before giving the federal leaders a taste.

The campaign was barely a few hours old when he demanded they renounce support for legal challenges to the secularism law his government passed in June — not just “for the moment,” as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would, but forever.

It was a warning to steer well clear of a matter he considers to be solely within his jurisdiction, even though the law has raised constitutional concerns across the country, not to mention within Quebec itself.

“It’s up to Quebecers to choose and Quebecers have chosen,” Legault said Wednesday of a law that bans religious symbols in parts of the civil service.

But the roots of the new Quebec nationalism go well beyond Legault’s sweeping election victory last year.

It’s a political mindset that has displaced sovereignty as the main alternative to federalism and, as the first week of the campaign has already made clear, will define how the leaders court votes in the province this fall.

Civic vs ethnic nationalism

The nationalism that currently holds sway is conservative. It is based on a holistic conception of Quebec society that prioritizes the historical experience of francophones.

It’s mainly worried that the combination of immigration and official multiculturalism will make francophone Quebec culture more vulnerable in an increasingly interconnected world where English is the lingua franca.

No surprise then that cutting immigration levels and protecting Quebec’s secular identity were the chief highlights of Legault’s first year in office.

He has sworn off sovereignty since his days in the Parti Québécois, but the origins of the conservative nationalism that his government espouses can nevertheless be traced to the movement’s most decisive moment: the night of the second referendum.

That night, Jacques Parizeau, the PQ premier, opted to improvise his concession speech. “We are beaten, it is true,” he said. “But by what, basically? By money and ethnic votes.”

Already in crisis following the narrow defeat, the sovereignty movement was split in its reaction to Parizeau’s comments.

There were those who were horrified and spent the ensuing years trying to expunge the movement of any hint of ethnic nationalism; trying to promote a more inclusive, civic-style nationalism instead.

And there were those who believed Parizeau was right, and sought to emphasize the history of French-Canadians in their version of Quebec nationalism.

At the outset, the civic nationalists had the upper-hand.

“After 1995, because of Mr. Parizeau’s comments, there was a tendency within the sovereigntist milieu to adhere to a Trudeauist conception of society,” said Éric Bédard, a prominent Quebec historian whose writings helped spark the revival of conservative nationalism.

“Why claim a special status, maybe even Quebec sovereignty, if fundamentally we adhere to the spirit of Canadian multiculturalism?”

But the reasonable accommodation crisis, which lasted roughly between 2006 and 2008, tipped the scales in the other direction.

The rise of the conservative nationalists

As debate raged in the province about whether minority cultural practices represented a threat to Quebec’s secular society, conservative nationalists mounted a fierce attack on multiculturalism.

Bédard and others argued the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its application by federally appointed judges, was too accommodating of minorities, at the expense of a historically rooted Québécois culture.

According to a conservative nationalist reading of the past, this culture is defined by the solidarity forged among francophones fighting for their survival. And the legacy of this solidarity is a willingness to value collective rights over individual ones.

That, they said, is what a secularism law could do: protect the collective rights of Quebecers to live in a secular society against individuals who use the charter to carve out space for their religious practices.

This argument eventually found a sympathetic ear in PQ leader Pauline Marois, who was desperate to restore her party’s fortunes after a disastrous performance in the 2007 election.

Marois brought several conservative nationalists, including Bédard, into her inner circle.

It was a collaboration that ultimately produced the Charter of Values, a proposed secularism law that would have banned religious symbols from large parts of the civil service.

The charter died on the order paper when the PQ lost the 2014 election. But conservative nationalists didn’t blame the charter for the loss. They blamed Marois’s focus on sovereignty.

The CAQ’s successful 2018 election campaign was based on a similar reading of the political climate in the province.

“The CAQ is in the process of fostering a nationalism without sovereignty. And that’s the winning formula at the moment,” said Jacques Beauchemin, a sociologist and former adviser to Marois whose writings also played a big role in the nationalist revival.

“They are proposing a nationalism that suits Quebec of today; a nationalism that is not afraid of affirming things, like with Bill 21 (the secularism law).”

Of obstacles and opportunities

The federal election campaign thus opens in Quebec at a moment of deep suspicion about federal institutions.

Legault, and other defenders of Bill 21, have actively sought to delegitimize the charter and the court system charged with upholding it, fearing their power to strike down the law.

His government, moreover, seeks not simply to defend provincial jurisdiction, but expand it in key areas, like immigration.

In the meantime, multiculturalism, as both a policy and a value, is cast in ever darker terms by government officials and popular columnists.

The grid laid down by the new Quebec nationalism offers different opportunities and obstacles to the three main contenders in the province.

It helps explain why, when launching his campaign, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet began with a paean to the nationalism of the CAQ government. Sovereignty received only a second-order mention.

It also provides an explanation for why Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has been more timid than Justin Trudeau in his criticism of Bill 21.

Now that conservative nationalism has been shorn of its sovereigntist trappings, the Tories are trying to win over voters who once backed the Bloc.

There is, however, only so much Scheer can offer without departing from his federalist bedrock and alienating supporters in the West.

Of the three then, the Liberals would seem to have the most to lose from the present configuration.

Trudeau is seeking a delicate balance with his position on Bill 21, trying to present his pro-charter federalism as no immediate threat to the law without forsaking a document that’s at the core of his party’s identity.

But the Liberals, it bears recalling, have maintained a healthy lead in Quebec polls since the last election. Conservative nationalism may be ascendant in the province; it’s not yet hegemonic.

Source: An introduction to the new Quebec nationalism and the tricks it plays on federal leaders

And PM Trudeau’s carefully worded not closing the door on challenging the Bill 21 in court:

Pour sa première journée de campagne en sol québécois, le chef du Parti libéral, Justin Trudeau, est allé un peu plus loin au sujet d’une possible contestation judiciaire de la Loi 21 sur la laïcité de l’État en affirmant qu’il serait « irresponsable » pour un gouvernement fédéral de « fermer à tout jamais la porte » sur la question.

« Nous ne fermons pas la porte à une intervention éventuelle parce que ce serait irresponsable qu’un gouvernement ferme la porte à tout jamais sur une question de droits fondamentaux », a admis le premier ministre sortant, talonné par les journalistes après avoir annoncé une série d’incitatifs pour les entrepreneurs, à Trois-Rivières.

Justin Trudeau, quelques minutes après le coup d’envoi de la 43e élection générale fédérale mercredi, avait affirmé qu’il jugeait qu’il serait « contre-productif » de s’engager « pour l’instant » dans une démarche judiciaire pour contester la Loi 21.

Sa position a rapidement été entendue à l’Assemblée nationale alors que le premier ministre, François Legault, a bien averti les chefs politiques fédéraux de ne pas s’aventurer dans cette voie. Le chef du Parti conservateur, Andrew Scheer, a déjà fait savoir qu’il n’a pas l’intention d’intervenir dans le débat et qu’il ne contesterait pas la loi.

Loi 21 : Justin Trudeau persiste et signe


Quebec’s religious symbols ban a major issue in federal election campaign

Good range of people interviewed. Odd conclusion given overall demographic changes and that most immigrants integrate:

The new Quebec law that bans many public servants from wearing visible religious symbols has become a major issue in the federal election campaign.

This isn’t a Quebec-versus-the-rest-of-Canada conflict. This is the shires against the cities, old stock versus those who welcome newcomers, the Canada that was against what Canada is becoming.

This is a conflict on the rise, not the wane.

Mario Levesque, a political scientist at Mount Allison University, agrees that Bill 21, as the Quebec legislation was known before it came law, divides Quebec from the rest of Canada. But even more, he says, it divides rural Canada from urban Canada.

When it comes to accepting high levels of immigration and the racial and cultural diversity that follows, “I would almost limit that to some of the bigger cities,” he said in an interview. “In other parts of Canada, I think there is some support for Bill 21.”

Erin Tolley, a political scientist at University of Toronto, points to research she and co-author Randy Besco conducted that shows about a third of Canadians oppose multiculturalism, a third support it, and a third are “conditional multiculturalists” who, as they wrote, “approve of immigration and ethnic diversity, but only under certain conditions” – the most important being that immigrants integrate fully into Canadian society.

“There is some difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada” on the question of embracing multiculturalism, Prof. Tolley said in an interview, “but it’s not as big a difference as you might think.”

Daniel Weinstock, a professor of political philosophy at McGill University, said that an important difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada “is that, in Quebec, politicians and pundits have been able to couch the law, fallaciously in my view, as being in continuity with Bill 101 [Quebec’s language law], as a defence of Quebec identity.”​​

But even without the veil of protecting French language and culture as an excuse, many Canadians object to minority religious and cultural practices. Prof. Tolley says that when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives vowed to ban the niqab – the full face and body covering worn by some Muslim women – at citizenship ceremonies, “many Canadians sided with the Conservatives.”

Prof. Levesque believes that more time may be needed for people in rural areas of Ontario, where he used to live, or the Maritimes, where he teaches now, “to learn about and welcome new arrivals, since they typically get so few of them.”

Although Maxime Bernier’s efforts to leverage voter discontent over multiculturalism with his new People’s Party have thus far gone nowhere, most political leaders are treating the Quebec law as though it were a new third rail.

Andrew Scheer says a Conservative government would not join the court challenge against the law. At this stage, neither would a Liberal government, Justin Trudeau said on Friday, although “we’re not going to close the door on intervening at a later date. “Intervention if necessary, but not necessarily intervention.

At Thursday night’s debate, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May hoped “that we can find a solution where we leave Quebec alone but we find jobs for anyone that Quebec has taken off their payroll.”

Only NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stands firm against the law, which would prohibit him from being a teacher or judge in Quebec because he wears a turban. “It’s legislated discrimination, and it’s sad and it’s hurtful,” he said at the debate.

Prof. Weinstock profoundly objects to Quebec’s new law because it “asks vulnerable minorities to do something that they can only do at the cost of enormous symbolic harm to themselves,” by publicly abandoning religious symbols “that they see as central to their identities.”

Yet, despite the openly discriminatory nature of the legislation, Quebec Premier François Legault has warned federal politicians not to support the court challenge.

“I want them to stay out of it – forever,” he told reporters earlier this week. “Not for the moment, but forever.”

No political fight is more useless than a culture war. Not a job is created, not a single child lifted out of poverty, not a jot of environmental progress made. It’s just Us and Them, with both sides the loser.

But there may be no escaping this fight, if enough voters in the future reject what Canada is becoming and demand the old one back.

Source: Quebec’s religious symbols ban a major issue in federal election campaign

Jean-François Lisée: The inconvenient truth about Quebec’s secularism law Trudeau doesn’t want to face: it’s popular

Two main points regarding other inconvenient truths:

  • Popular opinion was against the death penalty, LGBTQ rights, same sex marriage and earlier on, gender equality. So would Lisée support rolling back some of these changes on the basis of “popularity?”
  • Europe as a model? Europe has one of the weakest record on integration of its immigrants compared to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even the USA as the OECD reports on integration with their extensive analysis of economic and social outcomes.
  • Substantively, there is little difference between multiculturalism and interculturalism as both are policies that aim at civic integration. The major difference is that interculturalism makes a reference to Quebec francophone society versus multiculturalism speaks of integration in terms on linguistic integration into English or French.

It is valid to ask all federal leaders their plans re Bill 21 but none of them is likely to state their plans during an election campaign.

“Unthinkable.” That’s how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted when Quebec tabled a law that would ban religious symbols and clothing for its teachers, judges, police officers and other public sector workers.

He pledged to “defend the rights of Canadians” against the proposed ban. His minister of justice repeatedly called the bill “unacceptable” and alluded to “next steps” once it became law.

One should not doubt Trudeau’s inherent repulsion for the Quebec law and everything it embodies. This is the man who heralded a woman’s right to wear a niqab — the starkest symbol of oppression of women — to a citizenship ceremony at which she would pledge to adhere to a Constitution that specifically defends gender equality.

Trudeau the father only paid lip service to multiculturalism and the veneration of differences. Trudeau the son embodies it in his bones. It is certain that, if re-elected, he will act. How? More on this later.

But the bill became law in late June, and no action has been taken since. On the contrary, the Liberal government has evaded and procrastinated on the issue. Why?

There is an inconvenient bump on the road to squashing the Quebec law: public opinion. Quebec public opinion, certainly, but Canadian public opinion also. It can — and will — no doubt be disregarded the morning after the election, but not the mornings before.

Ban has support outside Quebec

In April, Léger Marketing carried out a country-wide online poll asking if voters would support the ban of religious symbols for teachers, police officers and judges in their province. The poll also asked respondents who they would vote for in the federal election.

Outside Quebec, fully 40 per cent of Canadians approved of such a ban in their own province. Except in Alberta, 50 per cent or more of Conservative voters were in favour.

Case closed.

Problem is, a sizable chunk of Liberal voters also embraced the ban. Here are the numbers: Atlantic Canada, 28 per cent; Alberta, 31 per cent; Ontario, 32 per cent; B.C., 34 per cent; Prairies (Manitoba and Saskatchewan), 62 per cent. (Would you believe that the numbers are even higher for NDP voters!)

Liberal pollsters have seen these or similar numbers. And they know that 50 per cent of their Quebec voters support the ban, according to the Léger poll. Were they to make this one of the pivotal issues of the campaign, they would have to turn their backs on a third of their base — and give up any chance of forming a majority.

Tough luck.

An election is precisely the moment when truths must be told.

If Trudeau really thinks the ban is “unthinkable,” and I’m sure he does, he must tell voters exactly what he plans to do about it if re-elected.

Trudeau should reveal what he plans to do about the ban

Three options are available to him. The most extreme, let’s call it the nuclear option, is to use the old disallowance clause of the Constitution to simply squash the legislation. This option, promoted by pundits such as columnist Andrew Coyne, was last used in 1943 against an Alberta law that restricted the property rights of Hutterite colonies.

There is a deadline on that option: it can only be used within 12 months of the law being sanctioned by the governor general, thus, no later than late June 2020.

The mid-range option is to refer the question of whether or not the law is constitutional directly to the Supreme Court. Constitutional scholars meeting in Toronto last April concluded that recent jurisprudence would lead the court to declare the law invalid — on its merits and despite the use of the notwithstanding clause. They said the court could also severely curtail the use of the notwithstanding clause itself and declare that Quebec really had no right to use it pre-emptively.

The milder option would be for Ottawa to join the ongoing legal challenge of the ban by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and National Council of Canadian Muslims and help bring it before the Supreme Court.

Are any of these options off the table for Trudeau? The election campaign should not end without a clear answer to that question.

Look to Europe, not Ottawa

Those who think Canadian multiculturalism is the only possible answer to the challenges of diverse societies will keep pushing hard against the ban. As did CBC’s Robyn Urback, who wrote recently that the Quebec law was a “national disgrace,” nothing short of “state-sponsored, systemic oppression” and called on Trudeau to denounce it as he had other “policy wrongs of the past,” such as the hanging of First Nations chiefs in the 19th century.

Proponents of this point of view are also present in the NDP — and to a lesser extent in the Conservative Party — and will want to know why their leaders seem indifferent in the face of Quebec’s perceived assault on equality rights.

Quebecers, on the other hand, know that the cradle of rights and freedoms is not in Ottawa but Europe. And that European courts have ruled that states have legitimate grounds to demand a clear separation of Church and state — including when it comes to the attire of civil servants — and to promote the rights of women by prohibiting misogynist religious garb.

So the question is, really, about tolerance. Will the Liberals and other federal parties tolerate the existence within Canada of a nation that disagrees with their brand of multiculturalism?

Trudeau claims he accepts the existence of Quebec as a nation within Canada. Will he say that doesn’t mean a thing when that nation veers from the Canadian norm?

He knows that no Quebec government to date has signed the current Constitution, and each one has rejected multiculturalism as a policy. Will he nonetheless use this unsigned Constitution as a hammer against a very popular Quebec law?

The Quebec government of François Legault played by the rules when it passed the law in June by invoking the notwithstanding clause to forestall any potential charter challenge. Will Ottawa now ask the Supreme Court to change the rules once the game is already underway?

Quebecers want to know; Canadians, too.

Source: The inconvenient truth about Quebec’s secularism law Trudeau doesn’t want to face: it’s popular

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s a critical issue.”

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

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

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

Leaning on temporary foreign workers

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

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

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

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

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

Laïcité: une campagne contre la loi 21 est lancée

Of note:

Le lancement a eu lieu à Montréal dans un lieu de culte protestant, soit l’église unie Saint-James.

Ehab Lotayef, l’un des coordonnateurs de la campagne, qui est de confession musulmane, avait une kippa sur la tête, une calotte portée traditionnellement par les juifs.

« Je vais la porter tout le mois de septembre », a-t-il affirmé.

Cette loi a peut-être été adoptée, mais c’est une loi injuste, a-t-il lancé près de l’autel de l’église. Pour les opposants, elle viole la Charte des droits et libertés et limite les possibilités d’emploi de personnes sur la base de leur religion. « On ne va pas juste l’accepter. »

La Loi sur la laïcité de l’État — connue avant son adoption comme le projet de loi 21 — interdit le port de signes religieux à certains employés de l’État lorsqu’ils sont dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions, dont les policiers, procureurs de la Couronne et gardiens de prison, ainsi qu’aux enseignants des écoles publiques du primaire et du secondaire.

Une enseignante d’origine tunisienne portant le voile, qui n’a révélé que son prénom, Ola, a témoigné qu’après une année extraordinaire dans une école primaire publique de Montréal, elle a frappé un mur pour l’année scolaire en cours. Comme elle n’est pas une employée permanente, si elle accepte un contrat pour cette année, elle devra signer une clause selon laquelle elle s’engage à ne pas porter de signe religieux dans la salle de classe, a-t-elle déclaré. Pour elle, cela signifie enlever son voile.

« Cette loi vient me priver de mes droits, d’être une femme libre, capable de décider où travailler, que porter. Personnellement, je ne vois pas ce que cette loi va apporter de plus ou de mieux à la société québécoise », a-t-elle dit.

« Sauf la tension sociale que je sens et que je vois. Et que je vis. »

Elle a souligné qu’il lui a été difficile de témoigner, se disant déstabilisée par les commentaires « inacceptables » qu’elle voit sur les réseaux sociaux.

Selon le rabbin Michael Whitman, « les effets négatifs de cette loi iront bien au-delà des personnes qui sont directement touchées […]. Elle a donné la permission à l’incivilité. »

Les membres du groupe de citoyens invitent les Québécois à porter les macarons qu’ils ont fait produire en grande quantité et qu’ils distribuent librement. Sur ceux-ci, on peut voir les mots « Loi 21 », barrés d’une ligne rouge. Porter le macaron montre publiquement son opposition à la mesure législative du gouvernement caquiste et le soutien à ceux « dont les droits sont niés par cette loi discriminatoire », font-ils valoir.

Leur but est de rassembler d’ici le 6 octobre quelque 50 000 personnes portant le macaron et le signe religieux de leur choix, qui participeront ce jour-là à une journée d’action publique. Ils veulent aussi générer une discussion sur la loi et changer l’avis de ceux qui la soutiennent.

Lors du lancement jeudi, des représentants de différentes communautés religieuses étaient présents.

La Loi sur la laïcité de l’État a été adoptée en juin dernier par l’Assemblée nationale.

Ce fut un jour très triste, selon Manjit Singh, de confession sikhe, qui a été dans le passé l’aumônier de l’Université McGill à Montréal.

« Nous sommes venus ici légalement, et soudainement, parce que nous avons quelque chose sur la tête, ce n’est plus acceptable désormais », a-t-il déploré.

Et cela ruine la vie des gens, a ajouté l’homme.

Leur opposition civile à la loi se fait de façon parallèle à la contestation judiciaire qui est en cours, ont-ils affirmé.

À la mi-juillet, un juge de la Cour supérieure a rejeté la demande de groupes de défense des libertés civiles et religieuses qui réclamaient la suspension de la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État. Le juge Michel Yergeau avait alors tranché que la loi continuerait de s’appliquer jusqu’à ce qu’un tribunal se prononce sur le fond de l’affaire. Car le but ultime de ces groupes est de faire invalider cette mesure législative. En août, la Cour d’appel du Québec a accepté de se pencher sur la demande d’injonction.

Source: Laïcité: une campagne contre la loi 21 est lancée

Migrants irréguliers: Ottawa verse 250 millions à Québec

Hard to disagree with the principle.

However, important not to forget that Quebec has a sweetheart deal with respect to the amount transferred annually for economic immigrant selection and settlement services (all categories) that is based on the percentage of of Quebec’s population, not the percentage of immigrants.

Given the current cuts in Quebec levels, and the increase in Canadian ones, the imbalance continues to increase:

À l’approche des élections fédérales, le gouvernement Trudeau sort le chéquier pour régler un différend avec Québec: il versera à la province 250 millions de dollars en guise de compensation pour les coûts liés au soutien des milliers de migrants qui ont franchi la frontière de manière irrégulière en 2017 et en 2018.

Le ministre des Finances, Bill Morneau, a confirmé cette décision par voie de communiqué jeudi après-midi, permettant ainsi au gouvernement Trudeau de tourner la page sur un dossier qui avait provoqué des frictions entre les deux capitales.

Depuis 2017, quelque 43 000 personnes sont entrées au pays de manière irrégulière. Plus de 90% d’entre elles ont franchi la frontière canado-américaine en passant par le chemin Roxham, près du poste frontalier de Lacolle.

«L’augmentation au cours des deux dernières années du nombre de migrants irréguliers qui entrent au Canada par le Québec a imposé au gouvernement du Québec des pressions particulières et sans précédent. Nous apprécions sa collaboration pour la gestion de cet enjeu», a affirmé le ministre Morneau.

Selon lui, le financement accordé au gouvernement du Québec devrait permettre de défrayer l’ensemble des couts extraordinaires liés à l’afflux de demandeurs d’asile en 2017 et 2018.

À Québec, le gouvernement Legault a fait savoir que l’entente conclue avec Ottawa ouvre la porte à d’autres compensations pour les dépenses liées au passage de demandeurs d’asile pour l’année en cours, une fois que leur nombre total sera connu.

En outre, les fonctionnaires de Québec et d’Ottawa poursuivent les négociations afin d’établir un mécanisme de répartition qui doit permettre de rediriger plus rapidement les demandeurs d’asile vers leur province de destination après leur arrivée à la frontière canadienne.

«Pour le Québec, il était primordial de compenser toutes les dépenses extraordinaires encourues pour les demandeurs d’asile au cours des années 2017 et 2018. Après plusieurs mois de négociations, nous avons obtenu le remboursement complet de nos dépenses pour les années 2017 et 2018 ainsi que l’engagement du Canada de rembourser les sommes encourues pour 2019. Il s’agit d’une avancée majeure et cela confirme le rôle du Québec en matière d’immigration», a affirmé le ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion, Simon Jolin-Barrette,

Dans le passé, les partis de l’opposition ont accusé à plusieurs reprises le gouvernement Trudeau d’avoir perdu le contrôle de la gestion de la frontière avec les Etats-Unis.

«Le gouvernement du Canada vise d’abord et avant tout à assurer la bonne gestion du système canadien d’immigration et d’asile et à faire en sorte que les flux de migration soient gérés de façon sécuritaire et ordonnée. Le gouvernement du Québec a été et continue d’être un partenaire extraordinaire. Nous sommes impatients de poursuivre notre étroite collaboration avec lui», a pour sa part déclaré le ministre de la Sécurité frontalière et de la Réduction du crime organisé, Bill Blair.

Dans le passé, les partis de l’opposition ont accusé à plusieurs reprises le gouvernement Trudeau d’avoir perdu le contrôle de la gestion de la frontière avec les États-Unis.

Dans un rapport publié en novembre dernier, le directeur parlementaire du budget Yves Giroux estimait que cet afflux de migrants qui traversent la frontière de façon irrégulière a coûté pas moins de 340 millions de dollars au gouvernement fédéral seulement en 2017-2018.

Source: Migrants irréguliers: Ottawa verse 250 millions à Québec

Why isn’t ‘unthinkable’ Quebec’s religious symbols ban a federal election issue? Selley and Urback

Two very similar columnists raise the same question and criticize the answer. Starting with Chris Selley:

Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans civil servants in certain positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job, passed in the National Assembly in June. And Quebecers are now gradually getting to know the victims of their pseudo-secularist misadventure — and what they intend to do about it.

Amrit Kaur, a 28-year-old recent teachers’ college graduate who wears a turban, has been in the news recently after picking up stakes for Surrey, B.C. Chahira Battou, a 29-year-old teacher who wears a hijab, was the subject of a similar news cycle back in April, telling various outlets she would rather be fired than obey the law — “If I submit to the law, and I remove my scarf when I go to teach, that is when I become a submissive woman,” she told the Washington Postand rilingnationalist commentators when she suggested to TVA host Denis Lévesque that Quebec cannot be a country of laïcité, because it isn’t a country at all. Nadia Naqvi, another teacher who wears the hijab, told the Post she wouldn’t take off her hijab out of respect for her students: “We’re supposed to teach them to stand up for their beliefs.” (Already-employed civil servants are not officially affected by Bill 21 unless they are so presumptuous as to want a promotion.)

Most of those affected will be teachers, most women, and most — not by accident — Muslim. But not all. Sondos Lamrhari is reportedly the first hijab-wearing Quebecer to study police tech, and hopes to apply to the Montreal or Laval police force in the near future. Not far behind her is 15-year-old Sukhman Singh Shergill, who has dreamed his whole life of being a police officer. His cousin, Gurvinder Singh, was part of a successful campaign at the New York City Police Department to allow officers to wear turbans and beards on the job, and Shergill has already started his own campaign in Montreal.

We will meet more and more of these people in coming months and years, and it will quickly demonstrate that Premier François Legault’s stated goal in passing Bill 21 — to put the issue to bed — will not be achieved.

In the meantime, every federal party leader has strongly opposed the law. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the restrictions “unthinkable.” “A society based on fundamental freedoms and openness must always protect fundamental individual rights and should not in any way impede people from expressing themselves,” Conservative leader Andrew Scheer told reporters in Quebec City in March. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, a criminal lawyer who could not work as a Crown attorney in Quebec by dint of his turban, has correctly argued that “there are a lot of people in Quebec who don’t feel this is the right way to go,” and is gamely auditioning to “be their champion.”

That being the case, it’s no surprise the issue has been totally absent from federal election discussions. All three major parties agree the ban is wrong; all of them want the votes of people who support the ban; and no one wants the Bloc Québécois to leverage federalist/non-francophone opposition into renewed relevance.

A braver person than me might call this a victory for federalism. As consumed as Quebec has been for 15 years in the reasonable accommodations debate, Éric Grenier’s poll tracker at CBC has the Bloc at just 18.5 per cent, the Conservatives at 23 per cent, and the Liberals — led by Canada’s most ardent multiculturalist, son of the fiend who foisted multiculturalism upon Quebec in the first place — leading at 35 per cent.

The poor NDP, which under Jack Layton squashed the Bloc in 2011, languishes at 11 per cent, not even two points clear of the Greens. But the other parties have in essence adopted the Sherbrooke Declaration principles that helped Layton appeal to soft Quebec nationalists: In exchange for abandoning separatism Quebec gets, if not every single thing it wants, then very asymmetrical treatment indeed — not just in substance, but in political rhetoric.

Bill 21 is stretching that compromise right to the breaking point, however. The idea that Quebec’s restrictions on minority rights are a “provincial issue,” and that this explains their absence from the federal scene, is rather belied by the fact that Trudeau is running his campaign as much against Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his various budget cuts as he is against Scheer. If Alberta had instituted Bill 21 — which it wouldn’t, but if it had — we would be looking at a very different federal campaign. Liberals would hold it up as evidence of shameful, intolerable intolerance, and they would have a point.

Can it really be a purely “provincial issue” when a government uses Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to impose restrictions on minority rights that the prime minister considers “unthinkable”? What’s the point of national unity if it means keeping shtum on such a fundamental question of individual rights and freedoms? Federal leaders utterly deplore the restrictions — fine. Voters should ask them what exactly they intend to do about them.

Source: Chris Selley: Why isn’t ‘unthinkable’ Quebec’s religious symbols ban a federal election issue?

From Urback:

What’s happening in Quebec is a national disgrace.

It’s the type of thing for which a future government will apologize, much in the same way the prime minister of present has taken to apologizing for policy wrongs of the past.

Indeed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shown no reservation in apologizing to the LGBT community for discrimination in the civil service decades ago; to Jews for Canada’s refusal to accept German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution; to Indigenous communities for the hanging of chiefs in the 19th century.

Trudeau appropriately called these policies “unfair, unequal treatment” and “state-sponsored, systemic oppression.” Of course, it’s easy to call out injustice when you’ve had no hand in its propagation.

Forced secularism

Discrimination is currently enshrined in law in Quebec. As of June, public servants in the province who work in so-called positions of authority — teachers, judges, police officers and so on — are prohibited from wearing religious symbols. Those who flout the ban are effectively shackled to their spots thanks to a grandfather clause that says they can’t be promoted or moved. Those who wear kippahs, turbans, crosses or hijabs need not apply.

This too is state-sponsored, systemic oppression, an affront to religious freedom that ought to outrage anyone who believes in equal opportunity and freedom from state interference.

It is not merely a “dress code,” as some who have tried to defend the law have insisted; wearing open-toed shoes or spaghetti straps at work is not a deeply held religious conviction. Nor is it simply a “Quebec issue.” When state-sponsored discrimination becomes the law anywhere in Canada, it is everyone’s business, and our national shame.

2015 Niqab controversy

This should be a major election issue. Back in 2015, the question of whether a new Canadian should be allowed to wear the niqab while swearing a citizenship oath was fodder for a national discussion, and the Liberals, to their credit, took the position of freedom and tolerance.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, huffed about the symbolism of taking an oath of citizenship while wearing a niqab, as if feelings should have any bearing on a state’s infringement on an individual’s rights. You don’t have to like the niqab to believe that — except in situations where security and identification are tantamount — a country shouldn’t tell a woman what to wear.

Public opinion polling at the time found that Canadians overwhelmingly supported a niqab ban, just as public opinion polls now show that Quebecers overwhelmingly support a religious symbols ban.

That’s why federal leaders (with the exception of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who pretty much has no prospects in Quebec) have been loath to bring up the topic and tepid in response to questions about it. No one wants to risk alienating Quebecers ahead of the fall election.

But majority opinion in this case is merely that; it certainly doesn’t mean the law is righteous or good. In fact, we have laws that protect individual freedoms and minority rights precisely because the majority can’t be counted on to uphold them — which of course is why Quebec has pre-emptively invoked the notwithstanding clause to avoid a Charter challenge.

But the federal government’s hands are hardly tied just because of the notwithstanding clause. It can put pressure on the Quebec government through economic means. It can support the legal challenge currently underway by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. And it can speak out, forcefully and repeatedly, about an unjust policy that should not be on the books in Canada in 2019.

(Some have claimed this would be “political interference” akin to the SNC-Lavalin affair, which is a laboured and ridiculous comparison. This would not be a prime minister waging a clandestine operation to influence the attorney general to prevent a criminal trial for a major corporation, but a prime minister openly standing up for minority rights against a clearly unconstitutional law.)

Trudeau recently made a campaign-style trip to Quebec, where he made an announcement about transit, talked about protecting the environment, visited small businesses and boasted about the middle class. He did not talk about how the province is discriminating against its own residents.

In fact, all the prime minister has offered by way of critique so far is a few milquetoast comments akin to what he said back in June: “We do not feel it is a government’s responsibility or in a government’s interest to legislate on what people should be wearing.” It’s hardly the full-court press he and his ministers have assembled to speak out against other issues, such as efforts to quash the carbon tax or Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s record on gay marriage or even Canada’s Food Guide.

In another universe, with a different electoral map (or if, say, this was an Ontario law under Premier Doug Ford), Trudeau would be harping on it at every opportunity, with every minister on board, and with the fury this sort of state-sponsored intolerance demands. And Scheer, for whom freedom from religious discrimination is surely a most important priority, would be too. We cannot look down our noses at the societal divisions in the United States while people in Canada can’t get jobs because of what they wear out of faith.

There’s no question that any sort of intervention would be abysmally received by Quebec and within Quebec, and could very well decide the election. But it would also be a true demonstration of putting principles above political interest — which is probably too much to ask. Doing the right thing often comes with an enormous cost, and it’s quite evident that whoever becomes our next prime minister will not be willing to pay it.

Source: Quebec’s secularism law is a national disgrace — and yet barely an election issue: Robyn Urback

When an Influx of French-Canadian Immigrants Struck Fear Into Americans

From a time when Canada had large scale emigration and a reminder of francophone fears of assimilation, as was the case with most who emigrated to the USA.

And a certain irony: Quebec’s fear of the “other,” as seen in its endless debates over identity, immigrants and integration, are the same issues that played out with respect to the large numbers of Quebec immigrants in the late 19th century.

In 1893, Clare de Graffenried, special agent of the United States Department of Labor, published an article in The Forum describing an invasion of America’s northeastern border. For 30 years, Graffenreid observed, hundreds of thousands of French Canadians had been pouring into states like Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, finding work in the region’s burgeoning industries. “Manufacturing New England, Puritan and homogeneous no longer, speaks a French patois,” she wrote.

Furthermore, Graffenreid continued, French Canadian workers huddled in “Little Canadas” of “hastily-constructed tenements,” in houses holding from three to 50 families, subsisting in conditions that were “a reproach to civilization,” while “inspiring fear and aversion in neighbors.”

Within the two years after Graffenried’s piece appeared, both of my grandfathers were born in Maine’s Little Canadas. A century later, when I began researching these roots, I uncovered a lost chapter in U.S. immigration history that has startling relevance today—a story of immigrants crossing a land border into the U.S. and the fears they aroused.

Inheriting an ideology of cultural survival from Québec, the French Canadians in the U.S. resisted assimilation. This led a segment of the American elite to regard these culturally isolated French speakers as a potential threat to the territorial integrity of the United States—pawns, conspiracy theorists said, in a Catholic plot to subvert the U.S. Northeast.

While French-speaking people had lived in North America since the 1600s, the French Canadians Graffenried discussed crossed the U.S. border during the late 19th century, mainly to earn a living in New England’s cotton mills. Cotton textile manufacturing began in earnest in the region during the War of 1812, and by mid-century, it was the U.S.’s largest industry in terms of employment, capital investment, and the value of its products. When the United States blockaded Confederate ports during the Civil War and prices for raw cotton soared, New England’s mills shut down or slashed hours. Textile workers turned toward other industries, joined the army, or headed west.

After the war, with cotton shipping again, the mills reopened, but the skilled textile workforce had scattered. The corporations launched a campaign to recruit workers, and Canada’s French-speaking province of Québec answered the call. Before the Civil War there had been a trickle of migration from Québec to the Northern states, but when hostilities ended, trainload upon trainload of French Canadians began to settle in neighboring New England. By 1930, nearly a million had crossed the border in search of work.

They arrived in extended family groups, establishing French-speaking enclaves throughout New England in small industrial cities like Lowell, Massachusetts; Manchester, New Hampshire; Woonsocket, Rhode Island; Lewiston, Maine; and elsewhere.

These Little Canadas, often wedged between a mill and a Catholic church, formed a cultural archipelago, outposts of Québec scattered throughout the Northeast in densely populated pockets. By 1900, one-tenth of New Englanders spoke French. And in the region’s many cotton mills, French Canadians made up 44 percent of the workforce—24 percent nationally—at a time when cotton remained a dominant industry.

French-Canadian workers often lived in overcrowded, company-owned tenements, while children as young as eight years old worked full shifts in the mills. Contemporary observers denounced the mill town squalor. When 44 French Canadian children died in Brunswick, Maine, during a six-month period in 1886, most from typhoid fever and diphtheria, local newspaper editor Albert G. Tenney investigated. He found tenements housing 500 people per acre, with outhouses that overflowed into the wells and basements. Tenney excoriated the mill owners, the prominent Cabot family of Boston. Conditions in the tenements, wrote Tenney, “show a degree of brutality almost inconceivable in a civilized community. … A sight even to make a Christian swear.”

Brunswick was not the only mill town with poor living conditions. Journalist William Bayard Hale visited Little Canada in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1894. “It would be an abuse to house a dog in such a place,” Hale wrote. Some Fall River tenements, continued Hale, “do not compare favorably with old-time slave-quarters,” a not-so-distant memory in the 1890s.

Other immigrants also faced pitiable conditions, but the French Canadians were unique because they thought of themselves as Americans before they came to the U.S. “The French Canadian is as American as someone born in Boston,” said Civil War hero Edmond Mallet, “it is all the nationalities that emigrated here that truly constitutes the American people.” Mallet was part of the small, educated French Canadian elite in the U.S., which included priests, journalists, professionals, and business owners. In their view, “American” was not a nationality, but a collection of “all the nationalities” living under the Stars and Stripes. In keeping with this understanding, they coined a new term for their people living in the U.S.: Franco-Americans.

Franco-American journalist Ferdinand Gagnon argued in an 1881 hearing at the Massachusetts State House that French Canadians were among the original constituent elements of the American Republic. He cited “Langlade, the father of Wisconsin; Juneau, the founder of Milwaukee; Vital Guerin, the founder of St. Paul, Minn.; Menard, first lieutenant governor of Illinois,” among his compatriots who had founded “nearly all the large cities of the Western States.”

While Gagnon encouraged French Canadians to pursue U.S. citizenship, for him naturalization implied a narrow contract. If naturalized citizens obeyed the laws, defended the flag, and worked for the general prosperity, he felt their duties were discharged—language, religion, and customs could remain in the private sphere. Gagnon’s concept of citizenship was based on Québec’s history, where French Canadians had maintained a distinct cultural identity despite British rule since 1763. The Franco-American elite expected their people to maintain their identity in the U.S. just as they had done in Canada.

But U.S. opinion demanded of the naturalized citizen something more than a merely formal participation in civic life, and Franco-American efforts to preserve their culture soon aroused suspicion and enmity. By the 1880s, elite American newspapers, including The New York Times, saw a sinister plot afoot. The Catholic Church, they said, had dispatched French Canadian workers southward in a bid to seize control of New England. Eventually, the theory went, Québec would sever its British ties and annex New England to a new nation-state called New France. Alarmists presented as evidence for the demographic threat the seemingly endless influx of immigrants across the northeastern border, coupled with the large family size of the Franco-Americans, where 10 or 12 children was common, and many more not unknown.

Anti-Catholicism had deep roots in the Northeast. The region’s Revolution-era patriots had numbered the Quebec Act of 1774 among the British Parliament’s “Intolerable Acts,” not least because it upheld the Catholic Church’s privileges in Canada, establishing “popery” in North America. In the mid-19th century, supporters of the Know Nothing movement led attacks on Catholic neighborhoods from New York City to Philadelphia. In New England, among other incidents, a Know Nothing-inspired mob burned a church where Irish and French Canadian Catholics met at Bath, Maine, in July 1854. In October of that year, Catholic priest John Bapst was assaulted, robbed, tarred and feathered, and driven out of Ellsworth, Maine. While the Know Nothings faded away, in the late 19th century the nativists regrouped as the American Protective Association, a nationwide anti-Catholic movement.

In this climate, the supposed French Canadian Catholic subversion of New England became national news. Between about 1880 and 1900, as immigration peaked, it attracted coverage in daily newspapers; think pieces in outlets such as Harper’s, The Nation, and The Forum; articles in academic journals; and books in English and in French. The New York Times reported in 1881 that French-Canadian immigrants were “ignorant and unenterprising, subservient to the most bigoted class of Catholic priests in the world. … They care nothing for our free institutions, have no desire for civil or religious liberty or the benefits of education.”

In 1885, the paper reported that there were French Canadian plans “to form a new France occupying the whole northeast corner of the continent”; four years later, it outlined the purported borders of New France: “Quebec, Ontario, as far west as Hamilton, such portions of the maritime provinces as may be deemed worth taking, the New-England States, and a slice of New-York.”

And in 1892, the New York Times suggested that emigration from Québec was “part of a priestly scheme now fervently fostered in Canada for the purpose of bringing New-England under the control of the Roman Catholic faith. … This is the avowed purpose of the secret society to which every adult French Canadian belongs.”

Protestant clergy responded by leading well-funded initiatives to convert the Franco-American Catholics. The Congregationalists’ Calvin E. Amaron founded the French Protestant College in Massachusetts in 1885, offering a training course for evangelizing the French Canadians of New England and Québec. Baptist missionaries fielded the “Gospel Wagon”—a hefty, horse-drawn vehicle with organ and pulpit, lit by lanterns at night, preaching Protestantism in French to the Little Canadas of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

New England had become “a magnet attracting the world to itself. … [Québec is] repellant and shunned by the world’s best blood,” thundered the Baptists’ Henry Lyman Morehouse in an 1893 pamphlet. “The one a mighty current. … that has been as the water of life to the civilized world—the other, a sluggish, slimy stream, that has fructified nothing and given to mankind nothing noteworthy … a civilization where mediaeval Romanism is rampant. … Against the abhorrent forces of this Romish civilization we are contending, especially in New England.”

Amaron and Morehouse identified Protestantism with Americanism. For them, it was unthinkable that the U.S. could accommodate a variety of religious traditions and yet retain its political culture.

In retrospect, the fevered discourse about New England’s class of destitute factory workers reveals how little chattering classes in the U.S. knew their neighbors—a people whose presence in North America preceded Plymouth Rock. The “invasion” rhetoric did not discourage Franco-American sentiments in favor of maintaining their identity but intensified them. The Little Canadas continued in vigor for at least another half-century, and slowly dispersed, not due to nativist provocations, but for economic reasons—the decline of New England’s manufacturing base.

Talk of a French Canadian threat waned in the first years of the 20th century, as migration across the northeastern border slowed temporarily. This Victorian episode faded from memory only when U.S. fears were transferred to new subjects: the even more foreign-seeming Jewish and non-Protestant immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, who, in the early 20th century, began to arrive in growing numbers on U.S. shores.

Source: When an Influx of French-Canadian Immigrants Struck Fear Into Americans

As Quebec cuts immigration, businesses turn to temporary foreign workers

Understandable effect:

As the Quebec government slashes immigration levels this year, it is also overseeing a huge increase in the number of temporary foreign workers coming to the province.

The inflow of temporary workers is helping Quebec deal with an increasingly dire labour shortage, but experts say the strategy is unsustainable economically and makes newcomers more vulnerable to exploitation.

Under the federal temporary foreign worker program, Quebec’s consent is required to bring a worker to the province.

The number of new Quebec employees hired through the program has jumped dramatically in recent months, and not just in the agricultural sector, but other sectors as well, such as tourism, food processing and manufacturing.

In 2018, 17,685 permits were issued to foreigners for temporary work in Quebec, a 36 per cent increase from the previous year, the biggest jump of any of the largest provinces.

The numbers are on track to rise again in 2019. In the first three months after the fall provincial election, the number of active permits rose by 32 per cent compared to the same period the year prior.

Permits were up 21 per cent in the first three months of 2019.

This increase comes despite plans by the Coalition Avenir Québec government to reduce the number of immigrants by 20 per cent this year.

That goal has drawn sharp criticism from business groups, who say they urgently need immigrants to help fill the 120,000 positions currently vacant in the province.

These groups warn the government that with Quebec’s aging population and low birth rate, the labour shortage will only get worse in the years ahead.

Province’s workforce is aging

Quebec’s Immigration Ministry said in a statement the objective of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is “to meet the urgent and specific needs of Quebec employers facing difficulties in recruiting local workers.”

Economists and business lobby groups, however, are skeptical about the program’s ability to meet the province’s long-term economic needs.

The higher number of temporary workers in the province is indeed helping offset the labour shortage, according to a recent analysis by Scotiabank.

But Marc Desormeaux, a provincial economist with the bank, said it doesn’t address the underlying structural crisis facing the Quebec economy: an aging workforce and shrinking labour pool.

“The question is whether the explosive recent pace of temporary foreign worker intake can be sustained over the longer run,” he said.

Denis Hamel, vice-president of the Conseil du patronat du Québec, a lobby group for employers in the province, likened the rise in temporary foreign workers to a “Band-Aid solution.”

It wasn’t addressing the labour shortage or the backlog in the immigration process, Hamel said.

“Employers have to look at the TFW program because they don’t have a choice. Delays are so long with the regular immigration path that if you want to fulfil a job in a six- to eight-month period you have to turn the TFW,” he said.

Process can take 6 months: lawyer

In order to hire a foreign worker, companies must demonstrate they would otherwise be unable to fill the position, a federally run process known as a Labour Market Impact Assessment.

Foreign workers must also obtain Quebec’s consent through what’s called a Quebec Acceptance Certificate.

Immigration lawyer Ho Sung Kim said the whole process can take up to six months and cost thousands of dollars, which can be prohibitive for a small business, such as a restaurant.

“But they do need people, and they are not able to find people locally, and that’s a big problem,” said Kim, who sits on the board of the Quebec Immigration Lawyers Association.

Moreover, those hoping to become permanent residents also have little recourse if they are mistreated, given their uncertain status.

“It’s not the ideal situation,” said Kim.

“Their stay is temporary and the renewal of the work permit is not always guaranteed and a lot of times they come with their family and want to settle down, and the pathway to permanent residency is less clear.”

The CAQ government is holding legislative hearings in Quebec City to discuss its immigration plan, which envisions a gradual return to the immigration levels hit in 2018, that is, somewhere around 50,000 newcomers.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said Tuesday the province is in talks with the federal government to make the Temporary Foreign Worker Program more flexible.

Business groups countered by saying the red tape involved with the program isn’t the only problem.

The Quebec Restaurant Association, for instance, called on the government to dramatically increase the number of immigrants to satisfy the needs of its members.

“Immigration is an undeniable tool that can alleviate the current labour shortage,” said Vincent Arsenault, head of the organization.

Source: As Quebec cuts immigration, businesses turn to temporary foreign workers