Ambrose and Cotler: Bureaucratic barriers are making life even harder for Canada’s allies in Afghanistan

Good bipartisan commentaryÈ

Make no mistake, the Taliban are in control of Afghanistan. Their swift return and seizure of power caught all of us off guard. Afghans who bravely served Canada now find themselves at great risk.

Their lives, and those of their families, are under constant threat of Taliban reprisals. Vulnerable Afghans, including female leaders, human-rights defenders, journalists, persecuted religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ community, have been abandoned in a country where they are now completely marginalized and must hide once again from an old enemy.

For the interpreters and their immediate family members who came to Canada under special immigration measures between 2009 and 2011, this remains a crisis. These Canadian citizens are desperate to help the extended families they left behind, knowing that they will continue to be actively targeted because of who they are related to. Shall we wait until disaster befalls before we hasten our efforts to evacuate these deserving Afghans?

Like many Western countries that rushed to get people out, Canada did its part, evacuating 3,700 people at risk. The door was open, briefly; now it is firmly shut. Those left behind are pleading for us to honour our commitments. They believe that Canada is a just and compassionate country, with a free and open society – at least, that is what we told them when we first came asking for their help. All is not lost. We can still live up to that ideal, but we have to act fast as lives hang in the balance.

Various charitable and volunteer groups have rallied behind the government of Canada’s efforts to evacuate and resettle the maximum number of eligible Afghans. We call on the government to fund these groups that help keep these people and their families safe. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) should simultaneously accelerate the vetting process in partnership with these groups. While we wait for borders to open, we need to protect these people through the continued provision of support inside the country and the issuance by IRCC of documentation proving their official link to Canada. The very act of this recognition is a lifeline and protected pathway out of Afghanistan.

For vulnerable Afghans, the Canadian government needs to allow visa applications from inside Afghanistan. We must not force people to needlessly risk their lives any further on unnecessary and illegal border crossings in the hope that a Canadian embassy or high commission will process their applications in another country, such as Uzbekistan or Pakistan.

We also need to honour our promises to the interpreters who have already resettled in Canada and are fellow citizens. By extending special immigration measures to the extended family members who remain in Afghanistan, we can remove them from harm’s way and make good on our promises.

Most importantly, we must recognize that there is no playbook for this. Blind adherence to policy and inflexibility to change it, despite the challenging situation on the ground, runs counter to the urgency of doing the right thing. It is a cruel reality that those left behind are facing. Canada must remove the barriers that our own policies present. We need to get the proper documentation to these people so we can get them out quickly and safely when the borders open to the world.

Despite the federal election, all parties must stand behind these initiatives. This is not about politics, not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about honouring the commitments we made to the people of Afghanistan and those who served our interests there. Only then will we be able to live up to our belief that Canada is a force for good in the world.

Rona Ambrose, the former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, is deputy chairwoman of TD Securities. Irwin Cotler, the former Liberal minister of justice and attorney-general, is the international chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-bureaucratic-barriers-are-making-life-even-harder-for-canadas-allies/

MPs amend judge sex-assault training bill to add systemic racism training, sparking new concerns

Hard to understand the concerns given that the Canadian Judicial Council will develop the training but I may be missing something:

A bill that requires sexual assault training for federally appointed judges has been amended by MPs to also include training on “systemic racism and systemic discrimination” — a change some see as a troubling sign politicians will keep venturing further into judicial training.

The legislation, which has now gone through three versions in four years, has seen widespread debate in the legal community over its constitutionality. Judges are self-governed through independent bodies to insulate them from political pressure, and already have their own training programs, including on sexual assault.

Supporters of the bill argue this is simply Parliament signalling that more must be done to protect the rights of sexual assault complainants and avoid basic legal errors. They note that judicial organizations are still responsible for creating the actual training content.

But critics worry the bill represents politicians trying to inject their policy preferences into judicial training, and that once the door is opened through this sex-assault training bill, future governments will pile on with their own political priorities, such as national security.

As it turns out, MPs have not even waited for the bill to get through the House of Commons before adding to it.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus told the Commons justice committee on Tuesday that his amendments are in order because the bill already required the training to consider the “social context” around sexual assault. The new language specifies that social context includes “systemic racism and systemic discrimination.” It does not include any other topics, and does not define those terms.

“I found that this offered us a good opportunity to…include other groups into the purpose of the bill,” said Fergus, who chairs the parliamentary Black caucus. “Those are the reasons why I proposed some small modifications,” he said, speaking in French.

The amendments were carried with Liberal, Conservative and NDP support, though they still need to pass in the full House of Commons and the Senate. Only Bloc Québécois MP Rhéal Fortin voted against them, saying they stray too far off track.

“It’s like we’d gone off to buy potatoes at the store, and we returned home with strawberries,” Fortin said in French. “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work…If we want to work on a different bill than the original one, which was for training on sexual assault, and we want something different on systemic discrimination, that’s fine and well, that can be something we could do. But we’ll have to make another bill completely or reopen the witness list.”

Fortin also argued that the term “systemic racism” is a politically popular phrase right now, but it’s not clear to everyone what it means.

Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, responded that there is wide social consensus around the phrase as it applies to institutions, and it “reflects sort of where we are as a nation, as a continent.”

Liberal MP James Maloney said that Fortin’s concerns about judicial independence could also be applied to the original bill, which Fortin supports. “We’ve crossed that threshold, Mr. Fortin,” Maloney said.

The legislation amends the Judge’s Act to require judges “undertake to participate in continuing education” on sexual assault and social context, and requires that the Canadian Judicial Council develop the training “with persons, groups or organizations the Council considers appropriate, such as sexual assault survivors and groups and organizations that support them.” It requires the Council to report to Parliament on when the seminars were given and how many judges attended.

The first version was introduced by former Conservative leader Rona Ambrose in 2017, but it stalled in the Senate in 2019 over concerns of judicial independence. It was largely rewritten in the Senate, mainly by Sen. Pierre Dalphond, a former Quebec judge, who scaled back some of the more intrusive parts of the bill.

However, procedural wrangling kept the bill from advancing and it died on the 2019 election call. Justice Minister David Lametti revived it in February as government legislation, but that bill also died when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August.

Dalphond told National Post that from what he understands of the amendments, they’re acceptable to him since they only mention systemic racism as one part of the social context, not the whole definition. He also said that in his experience, systemic racism is already an important part of judicial training. But he warned that Parliament must not go too far in attempting to direct the training or influence the content.

“The shorter the better,” Dalphond said about the legislation.

Asked for comment, Ambrose replied with a statement that did not mention the systemic racism amendment. “I know victims of sexual assault are thankful that MPs are working together to get this bill passed,” she said. “I hope it passes without delay.”

Lametti’s office also did not comment directly on the amendment, but said the justice minister “fully agrees with the need to take action to address systemic racism in Canada’s justice system.”

Many in the legal profession are deeply concerned about the precedent the bill sets. Gib van Ert, a lawyer who was executive legal officer at the Supreme Court of Canada from 2015 to 2018, wrote in Maclean’s in February that governments should not be legislating training for judges, because once it starts it might never end.

“Why not put a few more required courses on the judges’ curriculum?” van Ert wrote rhetorically at the time. “Why not train our judges in systemic racism, Indigenous laws and rights, climate change, national security and counterterrorism, border security and unlawful migration?”

His essay turned out to be prescient.

“Of course, judges should learn about sexual assault and systemic racism,” van Ert told the Post on Tuesday. “They already do, through their own judge-led training programs. The problem lies in the training being mandated by politicians. When people go to court they need to feel their judge isn’t just thinking and doing what the government tells them to. They need to believe judges are independent. I continue to think this is a bad precedent.”

Source: MPs amend judge sex-assault training bill to add systemic racism training, sparking new concerns

Growing group of Tory leadership hopefuls oppose move to have House of Commons denounce Islamophobia

Funny, I don’t recall any Conservatives expressing concerns about singling out Antisemitism when they were in power and launched a number of initiatives (e.g., hosting an international conference on combatting antisemitism, jointing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) that were sometimes at the expense of general anti-racism and discrimination messaging and programming.

And was there not also a strong political aspect to the Conservative government’s efforts with respect to Canadian Jews? Interim Leader Ambrose should be mindful of stones and glass houses:

A growing number of Conservative leadership rivals are declaring their opposition to a Liberal MP’s motion to have the House of Commons denounce Islamophobia and other forms of systemic racism.

And the interim leader of the party, Rona Ambrose, is also likely to vote against the motion, which will be debated Wednesday, as she accuses the Liberals of purposefully trying to sow division in her party with the initiative.

The opposition to the anti-Islamophobia motion by Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer and others is likely to play well with a Conservative base that, according to several polls, is more suspicious and wary of Muslim immigrants than other groups of voters.

But as more Tories oppose the motion, their political opponents will have more of a chance to charge that Conservatives are intolerant at best and bigoted at worse, a resurrection of criticisms that hurt them at the ballot box in 2015 after the party unveiled a promise to institute a “Barbaric Practices Snitch Line” and vowed to repeal citizenship for new Canadians in some circumstances.

“Voting against this motion is simply nonsensical,” said Karl Belanger, who spent 19 years as a top adviser to three leaders of the federal NDP. “‎No matter what the convoluted explanation is, you are voting against condemning Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination. That will stick.”

The resolution at hand is known as M-103. It was put before the House of Commons in early December by Iqra Khalid, a first-time Liberal MP who represents Mississauga—Erin Mills, Ont.

The motion is scheduled for an hour’s worth of debate in the House of Commons late Wednesday afternoon. And while there is a chance a vote could be held during that hour, the more likely outcome from a procedural standpoint is that a vote will be put off until early April.

Ambrose said she believes the Liberals will want to keep the issue front-and-centre for weeks before bringing it to a final vote.

“We know they are doing this purely for politics,” she said.

Khalid, who was born in Pakistan, wants to accomplish three things with M-103: First, that the House “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination;” second, that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage be instructed to study the issue of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia;” and, finally; that the federal government collect data on hate crimes for further study.

Scheer, in a recent fundraising letter to his supporters, said one of the reasons he will vote against Khalid’s motion is that it could be construed as a move to stifle free speech. He also says the motion does not define “Islamophobia” and, in any event, he says he cannot vote for a motion that singles out one religion for special status.

“It is also important to note that we already have laws that protect Canadians against discrimination based on their faith. We also have laws against inciting violence,” Scheer said.

Bernier cites similar reasons for his opposition to M-103 but, in a Facebook post over the weekend, said he could support the motion if the word “Islamophobia” was removed from motion.

“We should reaffirm everyone’s right to believe in and criticize whatever belief they want, whether it is Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, atheism, or any other,” Bernier said.

MP Brad Trost, who is also running for the leadership, said Jews and Christians are more likely to be victims of faith-based intolerance. He called Khalid’s motion “a farce.”

Steven Blaney, too, will vote against the motion: “While I recognize the value of promoting respect for all religion, I intend to oppose M-103, a motion that is not well defined and clearly represents a threat to freedom of expression.”

For his part, Erin O’Toole, another leadership candidate, has reached out to Khalid with some suggestions to modify the amendment so that it might find more support among Conservative MPs.

Khalid was not available for an interview Monday but, when she tabled her motion last December, she told the House of Commons, ” I am a young, brown, Muslim, Canadian woman. When I moved to Canada in the 1990s — a young girl trying to make this nation my home — some kids in school would yell as they pushed me, ‘Go home, you Muslim,’ but I was home. I am among thousands of Muslims who have been victimized because of hate and fear.

“I am a proud Canadian among hundreds and thousands of others who will not tolerate hate based on religion or skin colour. I rise today with my fellow Canadians to reject and condemn Islamophobia.”

Her motion, if it passes, would not change any Canadian laws, as Bernier correctly noted in his Facebook post. Moreover, House of Commons standing committees are often asked to study a particular issue and make recommendations to the government on a course of action.

Governments sometimes act on committee recommendations, but they just as often ignore them.

But Ambrose, in an interview with the National Post Monday evening, said she worries her work trying to empower women and girls in Muslim communities could be branded Islamophobic if she criticizes the views of some Muslim men.

“Our members are really concerned about this as a freedom of speech issue,” Ambrose said. For Conservatives, it will be a “free vote,” which means they may vote as they choose. Ambrose said she is open to amendments that deal with her concerns about speech.

“We absolutely condemn all forms of hatred, racism and violence,” Ambrose said.

Source: Growing group of Tory leadership hopefuls oppose move to have House of Commons denounce Islamophobia | National Post

And David Akin’s latest update and interview with Iqra Khalid, the MP sponsoring the motion:

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid said she is keen to allay the “fear and anxiety” some Canadians have about her attempt to have the House of Commons denounce Islamophobia, systemic racism and intolerance.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday with the National Post, Khalid, a Pakistan-born first-time MP from Mississauga, Ont., said she is not willing to alter her  motion, which has been given the parliamentary designation M-103, even though some Conservative MPs have suggested she do so and even though she says she has been subjected to “a lot of hatred” and abuse since she first proposed the motion last December.

“Watering down the motion will not be in the best interests of Canadians who are working to fight this (intolerance),” Khalid said.

Debate on M-103 is expected to begin at about 5:30 pm ET Wednesday in the House of Commons and run for about an hour. And while it is procedurally possible that a vote could also happen Wednesday, it is much more likely that the vote will be put off until early April.

Khalid will find significant support from her own caucus colleagues and from the NDP but not as much from the Conservative benches. Rona Ambrose, the interim Conservative party leader, in an interview with the National Post Monday, said she is opposed to Khalid’s motion and several of the contenders to become permanent leader also oppose it.

Liberal MP keen to allay ‘fear and anxiety’ on anti-Islamophobia motion but will not change it in face of ‘hatred’

RCMP had no idea about barbaric cultural practices snitch line pitched by Conservatives

No excuse for former Ministers Leitch and Alexander for going along with this. It would be nice to hear some sober second thought reflections from each of them:

CBC News has learned the RCMP had no idea a Conservative government would have tasked it with establishing a controversial “barbaric cultural practices” tipline.

Two former Conservative cabinet ministers held a news conference mid-campaign to tell reporters that if their party formed the next government, it would order Mounties to set up the snitch line.

Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch said it would allow citizens to “report incidents of barbaric cultural practices here in Canada or to notify authorities that a child or woman is at risk of being victimized.”

The idea was criticized by some who pointed out such a tip line already exists — 911. Others jokingly predicted the Mounties could have found themselves investigating tips from the public that baby boys were being circumcised or that parents were getting their kids’ ears pierced.

CBC News asked the RCMP for all correspondence or other documentation related to such a proposal in an access to information request. The police force responded Wednesday.

The Mounties say they searched records in federal policing, specialized policing services, contract and aboriginal policing and the strategic policy and planning directory.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to locate records which respond to your request,” Supt. David Vautour, an officer with the access to information and privacy branch of the RCMP, wrote in a letter to CBC News.

This backs up what sources have recently told CBC News — that the idea for such a tip line was cooked up at the last minute by a small circle of people close to former prime minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper with no consultation with anyone else.

Today, the Conservative Party’s Interim Leader Rona Ambrose told reporters, “I was not part of that decision, nor do I support it.”

Source: RCMP had no idea about barbaric cultural practices snitch line pitched by Conservatives – Politics – CBC News