Early commentary on the Liberal omnibus provisions regarding asylum seekers: Contrasting views Ibbitson and Urback

Starting with Ibbitson, who supports the planned change but not it being done though the omnibus budget bill:

“Our country is full,” Donald Trump told asylum seekers last week. The President is wrong, of course, but uncontrolled migration is a crisis in the United States and a problem in Canada, because it undermines confidence in the immigration system.

This is one reason the Trudeau government introduced legislation this week to stem the flow of people who cross at unauthorized points of entry from the United States.

Another might be that, even though the Liberals have done a good job over the past year of slowing the flow of unauthorized crossings, they fear the public might think they haven’t done enough.

In either case, it’s also important to remember that the core purpose of immigration is to stoke the economy and prevent population decline. The intent of deterring crossings at unauthorized places should be to bolster the overall system.

The total fertility rate in the United States has fallen to 1.8 children per woman, and will likely continue to fall. The Canadian rate is 1.6. Both countries are reproducing far below the average of 2.1 children per woman needed to prevent population decline.

This is good news. Teenage pregnancy rates have fallen by two-thirds in the United States since 1990, and 80 per cent in Canada, thanks to improved access to sex education and birth control. In the United States, white, African-American and Latino birth rates are converging, reflecting improved education and economic opportunity for minorities. More women are waiting to establish their careers before having a child, a reflection of increasing equality. Low fertility means social progress.

But fewer babies eventually means fewer young workers to pay the taxes needed to sustain health care and pension for older folks. It also means lower economic growth, because there are fewer young consumers buying that first car, first house and so on. Two dozen countries are losing population each year, and in many cases their economies are struggling.

The United States and Canada counter the effect through high levels of immigration, which is why their populations continue to grow, and to age more slowly.

But the United States faces a growing crisis of uncontrolled immigration, with more than 100,000 crossers from Mexico detained in March alone. In Canada, the number of people who crossed at unauthorized points of entry was just less than 20,000 for all of 2018, mostly from the United States into Quebec.

Mr. Trump wants to build a wall, which would be ineffective, and is threatening to close the southern border completely, which would be an economic disaster.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is taking a different approach. The budget bill introduced Monday includes a new law that would prohibit people from making refugee claims who have already made a similar claim in the United States and certain other countries. And Canadian officials are working with their American counterparts to toughen the Safe Third Country Agreement so as to further deter crossers.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers has condemned the new legislation as “callous.” But Canada will continue to take in refugees who make legitimate claims through regular channels, such as the refugees from Syria.

The immigration system is not humanitarian; it is economic. In Canada, we bring in almost 1 per cent of our population each year so that our economy and population will continue to grow. Mr. Trump encourages nativist, anti-immigrant sentiment. If Americans listen to him, their country will eventually start losing people − with or without unauthorized migrants − surrendering a key geopolitical advantage, since the Chinese and Russian populations will both start to decline in a few years. (In Russia, it may already have begun.)

Some people argue for policies − enhanced parental leave, subsidized daycare, even cash payments − that will encourage couples to have more children, while limiting immigration. Such policies are very expensive and research shows they don’t work. Women in developed countries today for the most part don’t have children because the state, or God, or their kinfolk, or domineering husbands want them to. Parenting for most couples is an act of personal fulfilment. And they are quickly fulfilled.

The Trudeau government should not have placed these new rules in an omnibus budget bill. And those rules may not survive a judicial challenge. But the goal is sound, even if it was opportunistic. Governments have a duty to control their borders. Failure undermines confidence in the immigration system. And closing the door to immigrants is demographic suicide.

Source:     Liberals’ immigration plan is sound policy delivered poorly John Ibbitson April 11, 2019     
Urback, in contrast, focusses on the “crass political” calculations, and is largely silent on the merits or not of the change:

The Liberal caucus would have had a collective aneurysm just few months ago if a senior political opponent had talked about “asylum-shopping” when referring to refugees who cross illegally into Canada. The implication, they’d cry, is that those risking their lives to seek refuge in Canada are simply economic migrants — not families desperate to find a safe place to call home.

The reality, of course, is that while many migrants might genuinely see Canada as the only safe place for them in North America — and perhaps that’s true — many who have crossed into Canada at unofficial entry points have not met the criteria for refugee protection, for various reasons. Slightly more than half of finalized refugee claims from these applicants were rejected in the last quarter of 2018.

The situation is hardly straightforward; Canada has been forced to balance its humanitarian commitment to refugee resettlement with the practical limitations of a system unprepared for the recent wave of migrants.

The system has been under enormous strain, with asylum-seekers waiting up to two years for just a hearing. And the integrity of the process itself has been under intense pressure, based partly on the impression that migrants crossing into Canada illegally are using a “loophole” in the Safe Third Country agreement to qualify for a hearing, when they otherwise would have just been sent back to the U.S.

The situation is thus a fraught and messy one, which unquestionably makes it deserving of criticism and careful analysis. Yet that is something the Liberals have been fiercely intolerant of the past three and a half years.

Back in July, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen called the Ontario government’s concerns about so-called queue-jumping “un-Canadian.” During an end-of-year interview, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Conservatives were trying to stoke fears over refugee claimants. In late January, the prime minister responded to a town hall question about Canada’s migration policies with a diatribe lamenting “the politics of division.”

And yet now, a few months later, Border Security Minister Bill Blair has defended the government’s sudden overhaul of asylum laws as a measure to prevent “asylum-shopping.” This language, apparently, is now tolerable.

Buried in this year’s omnibus budget implementation bill is a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that essentially disqualify asylum-seekers who have made a claim for refugee protection in any other country. Once the bill receives royal assent, an asylum-seeker can be deported without a hearing, which would seem to violate the Charter as affirmed by Singh v. Canada, where the Supreme Court determined that Charter rights extend to everyone physically on Canadian soil.

Many Canadians will nevertheless welcome the Liberals’ unexpected about-face on asylum-seekers. Two-thirds of respondents to an Angus Reid poll published back in August thought the border situation had reached a crisis point. More than half said that Canada was too generous toward asylum-seekers who cross into Canada illegally. A more recent Ipsos poll found that 47 per cent of respondents believe most migrants aren’t actual refugees — they just want to come to Canada for its economic benefits. Perhaps Blair has that summary on his desk.

What’s noteworthy about the timing of the planned changes is that the number of asylum-seekers crossing into Canada at unofficial points of entry is actually on the decline. In 2018, 1,517 people were intercepted by the RCMP crossing into Canada during the month of January. A year later, that number dropped to 888 for the same month. In 2018, 1,565 people crossed illegally into Canada in February. A year later, for the same month, the total was 808. Numbers haven’t been that low since June 2017.

This is all to say — as if there was any doubt — that the Trudeau government’s decision to enact sweeping changes to Canada’s asylum provisions is just a crass political move; it will come into force months before an election, when illegal border crossing is actually on the decline, and right onside with public opinion in favour of toughening up asylum laws.

Tabling a stand-alone bill on changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act — as one would reasonably expect of policy changes of such enormous importance as Canada’s treatment of vulnerable people fleeing persecution — would take too long, and be subject to debate and revisions and multiple readings and so forth.

By using an omnibus bill (something the Liberals vowed they would never do), these changes can go into effect right away, eliminating a potentially defining wedge issue. Sure, it is potentially unconstitutional, but that can and will be sorted out later.

Three and a half years is not a long time to go from “Sunny Ways” and 25,000 Syrian refugees to deportations without hearings and unconstitutional amendments. This is type of realpolitik (on the backs of refugees, of all people) is the sort of soulless strategizing we’re supposed to expect of the other guys — the ones who talk about “queue-jumpers” and Canadian values and shopping around for places to seek asylum. But without the sun lighting the way, it’s hard to tell everyone apart.

Source: Changing Canada’s asylum laws is nothing but a crass political calculation by Trudeau: Robyn Urback

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

Valid test:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trudeau went on:

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

Not looking the other way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penguins’ White House decision means Crosby can’t ‘stick to sports’ – Sportsnet.ca

Good analysis:

The president’s call for the release of NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice caused widespread backlash across the league this weekend. According to the Chicago Tribune, more than 200 players took a knee or sat on the bench while the anthem was played. Three teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, remained in their locker-rooms for the anthem. (Steelers offensive lineman, Alejandro Villanueva, an Army veteran, stood at the mouth of the players’ tunnel for the anthem by himself, though he has said that was due to a mistake.)

The president also disinvited the Golden State Warriors from visiting the White House as NBA champions, because the team’s star player, Steph Curry, said he wouldn’t attend — causing further backlash from NBA stars, like LeBron James and many others.

Curry says Trump’s comments just cement Warriors stance on White House visit

In the midst of it all, the Pittsburgh Penguins released a statement saying that they would, indeed, be attending the White House in celebration of the team’s Stanley Cup victory. That decision — not to mention the timing of the announcement — resulted in an outpouring of both criticism of and support for the Penguins.

When he was asked for his thoughts on visiting the White House by reporters after an exhibition game on Sunday, Crosby faced a polarizing question — whether he realized it or not.

“I support it,” the Penguins captain said. “It’s a great honour for us to be invited there.”

Despite Crosby’s honest efforts to be inoffensive, there was simply no way around it this time. He was going to offend one side or the other regardless.

And in that moment, Crosby made a statement about what he, his team and, yes, the NHL stand for.

Because in Trump’s America, sports and politics are inextricably linked. They’ve been mashed together like two mounds of Play-Doh in the hands of a toddler. And so Crosby was handed a discoloured pile of highly political mush, courtesy both of the president and of his own team’s decision to make an announcement about going to the White House.

This is the kind of discomfort that neither Crosby nor the NHL is used to.

Hockey is the least diverse of the major North American pro sports leagues. It is a sport that is by and large dominated by white people. And it is a sport that, for the most part, only the affluent can afford to play.

For those reasons, the NHL has less connection to the issues that are at the forefront in leagues like the NFL and the NBA. The majority of NHL players don’t face the systemic racism that their counterparts do. And so, in all its whiteness, the NHL doesn’t carry the social conscience that other leagues do. In fact, it deliberately tries not to.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has expressed his preference that players remain apolitical when representing the league. Meanwhile, Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has encouraged the players in the league to use their platforms to express their views.

The NFL, NBA and WNBA all have players who have long used their platform to protest the systemic racism that people of colour face in the United States. Some prominent baseball players, like Adam Jones, have also spoken out against racism. Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell also knelt during the anthem on the weekend.

Although hotly debated, these protests have all been peaceful, respectful and eloquently explained by those who take part or support those who do. But the NHL has slipped through the controversy relatively unchallenged. Questions of race are left to black players such as P.K. Subban and Wayne Simmonds.

Still, hockey hasn’t been completely devoid of opinion. In recent years, several players in the NHL have shared their views about politics and social issues. Tim Thomas refused to meet with President Barack Obama when the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Earlier this year, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri was critical of President Trump’s ban on people entering the United States from specific Muslim-majority countries. Mika Zibanejad of the New York Rangers spoke about the difficulty the ban created for his family still living in Iran. This weekend, Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler slammed the president on Twitter for his comments regarding protesting athletes.

Source: Penguins’ White House decision means Crosby can’t ‘stick to sports’ – Sportsnet.ca

Robyn Urback’s take, after correctly calling out those using intemperate language criticizing Crosby:

Personally, I would have liked to see Crosby turn down the invite for any number of reasons: Trump’s attacks on athletes, women, immigrants, the U.S. Constitution and a normal news cycle, or for appearing to declare war on North Korea over Twitter. Take your pick.

I suspect Crosby assumed, rather adorably, that accepting the White House invitation was the less political of his two options. And after theexcoriation Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas received for skipping his team’s White House visit in 2012, it’s not hard to see why he might think that.

Two wrong choices

But in 2017, there is no such thing as an apolitical move. Crosby was damned either way. He’d either be a Trump sympathizer by accepting the invitation, or a rogue liberal by turning it down.

Ideally, there would be room for some nuance, but we seem to exist in a climate now where there’s this impulse to characterize everyone — athletes, actors, co-workers, etc. — as either “with us” or “against us,” which is absolutely being encouraged by the guy in the White House.

Indeed, separating people into “good” and “bad” is straight from the Trump playbook, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to play along. We don’t have to see an athlete who visits the White House or chooses to stand during the national anthem as a de facto Trump sympathizer; perhaps he disagrees with Colin Kaepernick’s method of protest, or fears being seen as anti-American, or maybe he just wants to try to stay out of it, to the extent that’s possible.

There is an argument to be made, however, that someone who does nothing in the face of injustice is himself guilty of perpetuating that injustice. It’s a fair point, which is why Crosby doesn’t exactly deserve a high-five for shrugging off the president’s bizarre views on the free speech rights of athletes.

But it’s unrealistic to expect every prominent figure in the world to declare his or her position on this presidency. Some people just aren’t built for it (which, granted, speaks to an extraordinary level of privilege, since some people have to be political, whether they want to or not). Hockey players are not exactly known for their thoughtful takes on social justice.

In any case, Crosby is not the enemy. If there is an enemy here, it’s his indifference, which won’t be challenged by sending him a tweet calling him a moral leper.

You don’t change minds by dividing people into camps and declaring as enemies those with whom you disagree. And you don’t change minds by yelling at strangers on the internet.

Change happens when those with whom we disagree are seen as potential allies, not hopeless adversaries. Crosby could be an ally. Or else he’ll just be a pretty good hockey player.

 

How will we know when police have earned their way back to Toronto Pride?: Robyn Urback

Valid questions by Robyn Urback:

If the issue is more so about visibility, as some BLM supporters say, noting that police are still welcome to participate in Pride as long as they’re not wearing their uniforms, then perhaps Pride should consider also asking clergymen not to wear their collars during marches and parades.

The religious leaders who choose to join in on Pride activities — such as those from the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto — are obviously open, welcoming and inclusive, though some Pride-goers might find the symbols triggering because of the many religious groups and institutions that are not so open, welcoming and inclusive.

Toronto Pride Parade Mark Saunders

Police Chief Mark Saunders greets the crowd during Toronto’s Pride parade in 2015. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

But if we accept that the police are being singled out because of the severity of their brutality against Canada’s black and LGBT communities — both past and present — which is a defensible position, then perhaps it would be prudent for BLM to define some sort of tangible criteria delineating how, and when, and by what measure police conduct would be acceptable enough for them to participate in the marches again.

Revoking the ban

At what point will police be distant enough from their past, like the Canadian Forces, innocuous enough in their present, like the education system, and adequately inoffensive in their image, like religious leaders, to once again be able to show their solidarity?

If we accept the notion that individuals have to carry misdeeds of the people before them — and the reputations of the worst among them — then it makes sense to prohibit any uniformed officer from participating in Pride activities.

But if we recognize that people are more than simply facets of the groups to which they belong, we’d know better than to paint them all with the same brush.

Source: How will we know when police have earned their way back to Toronto Pride?: Robyn Urback – CBC News | Opinion

Racists, dummies and bad costumes: Robyn Urback

Always good to have nuance rather than the automatic reactions:

There is, however, nuance to be found under the impassioned name-calling being sputtered from both sides. It involves the recognition, for one, that most of these students probably aren’t frothing racists, but rather, just uninformed dolts who didn’t read the news last Halloween, and who don’t understand why someone might take offence to them wearing a symbol of profound religious or cultural meaning as a costume.

It also involves the recognition that while some people might not have a problem with students dressed as people of other cultures, there are very legitimate, genuine reasons why Mexican prisoner or Tibetan monk costumes would be considered offensive. Some of those reasons are more obvious than others (see: Mexican prisoner), but just because it might take a bit of digging to find the “offence” doesn’t mean it’s any less real.

All that said, we will certainly never get anywhere if the impulse, from all ends, is to sprint to the extreme each and every time this comes up. So, how about next October, instead of the conversation going as it did this time — “This is shockingly racist!” then “Pft, crybabies…” —  we opt instead for, “Hey, I don’t think you’re a Nazi, but maybe dress as a cat next time?” followed by “OK”?

Maybe then we’ll have a shot at getting through the year without playing out the same tedious routine.

Robyn Urback: On that contentious Black Lives Matter tweet…

One of the better commentaries:

…. I sort of understand why members of the Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) group all but shrugged this week in response to a controversial tweet put out by one of its co-founders. The tweet was originally posted back in February, but only came to light this week after Jerry Agar, a local Toronto radio host, reported on it on his show. In the tweet, BLMTO co-founder Yusra Khogali wrote, “Plz Allah give me strength to not cuss/kill these men and white folks out here today. Plz plz plz.”

It was a dumb thing to post, especially for a leader of movement that — one would think — would want to covet potential allies rather than ostracize them. And it shouldn’t be surprising that some people found it offensive. But rather than acknowledge the inappropriateness of the tweet, apologize for it and move on, BLMTO members dug in their heels and went on the defence: the group’s other co-founder, Sandy Hudson, refused to comment on it during an interview with a local television station, and instead criticized the reporter for focusing on the tweet, rather than the issues about which BLMTO was trying to get attention. In the Toronto Star, journalist and activist Desmond Cole explained Khogali’s tweet as a “common response to violence and injustice,” “an honest appeal to restraint and wisdom in the face of violence, racism and misogyny.” And Khogali herself refused to comment on the issue altogether.

Meanwhile, critics of the BLMTO movement latched onto the tweet as a sort of “smoking gun,” which supposedly proved the violent intentions of the group. But to make that assertion is a pretty remarkable stretch: people say and post all sorts of hyperbolic things when they’re angry — and despite some progress in recent years, black Canadians still have plenty to be angry about — but that doesn’t mean they actually intend to act on it. And it also doesn’t mean that the group’s core message should be wholly discredited because its co-founder posted one thoughtless, offensive tweet.

None of this is to say that Khogali’s tweet was in any way acceptable, though her defenders have demonstrated some phenomenal mental gymnastics in attempting to explain why it’s somehow OK to post a prayer to God, asking for the strength not to kill people of a certain group and gender. It’s not. The impulse to hunker down in this case is understandable, especially as BLMTO is slammed with criticism, seemingly from all sides. But it’s ultimately disingenuous: no group is, or should be, above criticism — not Black Lives Matter, not Orthodox rabbis in New York, not National Post columnists who, perhaps unwisely, wade into the most contentious of social issues.

BLMTO representatives say they would prefer we talk about carding, or wage discrepancies, or violence against blacks at the hands of police — which are all worthy topics of discussion. But at the same time, there is no better way to get people interested in a tweet than insisting that the media stop talking about it. Had BLMTO led the discussion, and heard the criticism, I suspect the conversation would have been over by now.

Source: Robyn Urback: On that contentious Black Lives Matter tweet…

Robyn Urback and Barbara Kay on the backfiring of wedge politics

Two contrasting views in the details (niqab or snitch line), starting with Robyn Urback on the niqab):

And there, in the 905, was where the second profound impact of the niqab debate seemed to reverberate Monday night. The region, which was Conservative blue in 2011, switched to almost entirely red, except for the ridings of Vaughan and Markham-Unionville. The 905 had been, at one time, a symbol of Conservatives’ immigrant-outreach success, led by one-time minister of immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism Jason Kenney. When the Conservatives swept the region in 2011, taking almost all of the Liberals’ seats in York region, Kenney attributed his success to support from new Canadians. “Our appeal to them has been honest,” he said. “New Canadians increasingly realize that their values are Conservative values.”

Whereas in 2011 the Tories were talking to immigrant communities, in 2015 they were talking about them

Four years later, the Tories were singing a different tune, making a point of listing the ways in which immigrant values are incompatible with Canadian values. While the Liberals spoke about removing unnecessary barriers to immigration and accelerating family reunification, the Tories attacked the niqab, defended bottlenecks in Syrian refugee process and mused about launching a hotline to report “barbaric cultural practices.” Whereas in 2011 the Tories were talking to immigrant communities, in 2015 they were talking about them.

The 905 responded on Monday by giving the boot to many of its once-prominent Tories, including citizenship and immigration minister Chris Alexander, who lost by more than 10,000 votes. It became clear that while the Conservatives may have been correct in pegging the niqab as a wedge issue, they left themselves on the wrong side of it.

Certainly there were other factors at play in the last 78 days: the trial of Senator Mike Duffy, Mulcair’s flip-flopping on pipelines and free trade, Trudeau’s personal gregariousness and aspirational vision for the country. But in Quebec and the 905, two regions that arguably mattered most this election, the niqab — and discussions thereof — appeared to be the foremost factor to tip support away from the Tories, either directly, or by extension. It seems one or two people — specifically, two veiled women — really can make a difference.

Barbara Kay states it was the snitch line:

I think Harper’s big mistake was in taking discontent with the niqab for permission to go big on all culturally-rooted misogynist practices. His proposal for a tip line to report “barbaric cultural practices” like forced marriages to the RCMP was overkill, and struck a sour note, even amongst those Canadians – like me – who were his staunchest supporters for a face-cover ban.

No policy is more likely to make entire communities feel singled out as inherently suspicious than a snitch line

Face cover is a very specific, very public practice that is quite separate from “barbaric” cultural customs carried out in private. Face cover is more than the sum of its single part. As I have argued in many columns over the past few years, face cover is charged with so much negative political, ideological and cultural baggage, it does indeed cause “harm” to the social fabric. I firmly believe Quebec is abiding by a precautionary principle that is wise. Endorsing face cover in situations where the public has no option, and must deal with a covered representative of the government – nurse, policewoman, teacher, passport control officer – is to endorse a barbaric custom entirely at odds with the principles of openness and social reciprocity we take for granted as a social right, but which need protection. Harper recognized this wisdom, and that is where he should have stopped.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very troubled by practices like forced marriage, which is a retrograde, tribal custom that should have no place in our society. We know it is happening in certain cultural communities in Canada, and I applaud any government that tackles the problem.

But there was no pressing need to bring it up at this time, and no public incident that facilitated its organic emergence into public debate. Unlike the niqab, nobody from South Asia was demanding that the government recognize forced marriage as commensurate with Canadian values. And the “tip line” has odious Orwellian connotations to it. It had a seriously chilling effect, and did indeed seem to cast Harper’s “popular” niqab stance in the light of “populism,” even “ugly populism.”

The result was that people who quite defensibly resist face cover in the citizenship ceremony – or in the giving and getting of pubic services – now found themselves in the highly uncomfortable position of seeming to endorse Stasi-era tactics of social control. No strategy is more calculated to bring out racist mischief-makers and vengeful false allegers than a snitch line. No policy is more likely to make entire communities feel singled out as inherently suspicious than a snitch line. And no policy is more likely to make the party that proposes it look imperious, bullying and nativist.

The Conservatives blew it. They occupied what was perceived as the moral high ground by most Canadians, and then, thinking that was base camp rather than a distinctive summit, kept climbing into thin air. They ran out of oxygen, and deserved to.

Barbara Kay: It was the snitch line, not the niqab stance, that hurt Harper

Adler won’t apologize for Holocaust reference

Questionable judgement. May be valid to note in a bio but on a sign?

Conservative candidate Mark Adler is defending a reference to the Holocaust on his campaign signage, which has led to claims that he’s exploiting an atrocity to win votes in the Toronto riding of York Centre.

A photo of one of Adler’s campaign signs has been making the rounds online; the sign makes the observation that he is “the son of a Holocaust survivor.” It caught the eye of The Walrus’ editor-in-chief Jonathan Kay, who posted photos of the sign on Twitter Sunday.

“Who needs Yad Vashem when Holocaust awareness is now being promoted on partisan Conservative signage?” Kay wrote on Twitter.

http://ipolitics.ca/2015/08/17/adler-wont-apologize-for-holocaust-reference/ (paywall)

As Robyn Urback notes:

The problem is that his message still only speaks to a proportion of his constituents, and it loses all tact when it’s blown up to 30-inch text. What’s more, with the spotlight now pointed in his direction, Adler’s other claims have become the subject of scrutiny, including his long-held assertion that he is the first Canadian MP born to Holocaust survivors. According to the Canadian Jewish News, the designation actually belongs to former Liberal MP Raymonde Falco. None of this really matters, of course, except maybe to show how easily experiences are cheapened when they’re turned into mere talking points.
I have no doubt that Adler didn’t intend to trivialize the experience of the Holocaust by using it for partisan gain, but that also doesn’t really matter. In politics, perception trumps intention, and in this case, the delivery was about as tactful as listing colitis on the “about me” section of a dating profile. The fact that your parents were viciously persecuted during the Second World War isn’t exactly on the same level as a pledge to keep the “economy strong,” which is why they look so strange sharing space on a campaign billboard. Some things simply do not lend themselves to bullet points.

Were your parents chased by Nazis? Vote Tory

I never felt the fact that my maternal grandparents were killed during the Holocaust made me more or less qualified to represent the Government at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Robyn Urback on the HPV vaccine: What’s worse than pre-marital sex? Cancer. That’s what

Robyn Urback on HPV vaccination and opposition by Catholic leaders:

Yet according to a letter penned by Church leaders and distributed to parents of children enrolled Calgary’s Catholic school board, the medical efficacy of the HPV vaccine is still up for debate.

“There is no consensus among those involved in public health in Canada that HPV vaccination is the most prudent strategy in terms of allocating health care resources to address the goal of preventing deaths resulting from cervical cancer,” according to the bishops’ mendacious claim. “We encourage parents to learn the medical facts.”

The bulk of the letter is not concerned with medical facts, however, but rather the propensity for such a vaccination to encourage pre-marital sex. “A school-based approach to vaccination sends a message that early sexual intercourse is allowed, as long as one uses ‘protection,’” the bishops write. “We…would prefer to equip [young people] for proper decision-making.

The problem with that line of reasoning is that while the HPV vaccine has proven nearly 100% effective in preventing cervical precancers caused by four strains of HPV, Catholic teaching over the past, oh, 2000 years, has proven considerably less effective in preventing pre-marital sex. Indeed, equipping young people for “proper decision-making,” prevents neither pre-marital sex, nor HPV infection. It simply leaves young people who have the misfortune of dogmatic-minded guardians at particular risk of catching an infection proven to lead to certain types of cancers.

Robyn Urback on the HPV vaccine: What’s worse than pre-marital sex? Cancer. That’s what