How Assad’s man got a priceless antiquity out of Canada and into Syria

Sometimes, literally following the rules makes governments miss the bigger picture:

Waseem Ramli, the notorious Montreal businessman whose diplomatic status as honorary consul for the blood-drenched Baathist regime in Syria was revoked by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland last month, is being officially heralded in Damascus these days as a selfless and patriotic national hero.

But it’s not because he’d managed to secure diplomatic credentials from Global Affairs Canada this summer, despite being feared and loathed by the Syrian refugee community in Montreal—he’s often seen driving around in a fire-engine-red Humvee with a portrait of Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad on a side window. It’s because he pulled off an altogether different and equally dramatic Canadian caper, right under everybody’s noses, in the weeks before the Assad regime appointed him to serve as a diplomat in Canada. And no law was broken.

In broad daylight, Ramli walked out of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts with a priceless 1,820-kilogram late 5th century Byzantine Christian mosaic. Measuring roughly 3.5 meters by 2.8 meters, the mosaic, originally from the vicinity of Hama on the Orontes River, was unveiled at a glamorous ceremony in Damascus on Monday. At the celebration, Ramli was praised to the skies for having secured the Hama mosaic’s acquisition over the repeated objections of Canadian officials.

But Canadian officials raised no objections at all to surrendering the Early Christian artwork to the Syrian Arab Republic, Maclean’s has learned. The process that led to the ceremonial unveiling of the Hama mosaic in Damascus on Monday was a lot like the cavalcade of official and inadvertent Global Affairs sign-offs that led to Ramli’s authorization to act as the Syrian regime’s honorary consul in Montreal.

Freeland pulled Ramli’s credentials after she learned from a Sept. 23 report in Maclean’s that her own department’s Office of Protocol had authorized and registered Ramli to act on the Assad regime’s behalf. But it’s too late for the Hama mosaic. It’s now at the Syrian National Museum in Damascus.

The massive mosaic came from a shipment of 82 mosaic fragments that the Syrian regime exported illegally in the late 1990s, likely in connivance with the smugglers themselves. The collection was intercepted by the RCMP and Canada Customs officials, and the artifacts were eventually returned to Syria, except for the Hama mosaic. Although it had been cut into two pieces, apparently for ease in transport, the mosaic was so magnificent that McGill University professor John Fossey, the Montreal museum’s curator of Greek art at the time, managed to arrange a loan of the work for display at the museum.

The loan was extended several times, starting in 2004. Assad plunged Syria into a nightmare of mass death and jihadist mayhem in 2011, and after 500,000 dead and more than six million refugees, he’s been winning. On Dec. 29 last year, Ramli walked into the museum, presented a letter from the Syrian government, and demanded that the museum surrender the Hama mosaic to him.

“When he first came in to us in December, I think he expected that overnight we could just take it down and hand it to him,” Hilliard Goldfarb, senior collections curator and curator of old masters at the Montreal museum, told me. But there were forms to be filled out, and proper authorizations to be obtained. Still, last April, Ramli was on hand at the museum to observe the mosaic being carefully taken down from its display mounting and placed in a special crate.

On May 13, the Hama mosaic was placed on an Air France flight to Paris. From Paris it was shipped to Beirut, and then transferred to the National Museum of Damascus where it was unveiled on Monday at a posh gathering of regime officials and diplomats from the few countries that haven’t severed relations with Assad’s rogue regime. At Monday’s unveiling ceremony, according to coverage by Syria’s state news agency, Mahmoud Hammou, the country’s director general of antiquities and museums, praised Ramli as a Syrian patriot who’d managed to acquire the Hama mosaic and arrange for its return to Damascus “at his own expense,” despite successive objections from Canadian authorities “under the pretext of the war on Syria.”

That’s not even close to what actually happened. Between Dec. 29 and May 13, Ramli’s efforts to get the Hama mosaic back into the hands of the Assad regime were dutifully stickhandled by a variety of helpful and perfectly friendly Canadian officials. “We were in touch with both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cultural Heritage in this matter, and we were told, yes, this work can be returned,” Goldfarb said. “We had contact by phone and by email with various parties. Canada was well aware of what was going on.”

There was a bit of a rigmarole, but Ramli’s demands were all met within six months.

“I’m not a politician. I’m an art historian. I don’t for a minute want to be seen as defending the Syrian regime, which I find absolutely horrible, but that’s not the issue we were handling,” Goldfarb said. “We were fully in touch with all the authorities. Really, to my mind, we didn’t have much choice.”

And that’s because Global Affairs Canada didn’t give the museum a choice. Nobody said no. Nobody even said, hold on, maybe we should just say no, this belongs to the Syrian people, not to the criminal regime in Damascus. So Goldfarb and his colleagues had little option but to comply with Ramli’s demands and hand over the Hama mosaic.
“Global Affairs Canada had no role in facilitating its return,” Adam Austen, speaking for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, told me.

This is, arguably, not untrue. The Cultural Property Export and Import Act requires that property lent to Canadian institutions be returned as the loan contract stipulates, and export permits to return loaned property are automatically approved. Ordinarily, ministerial discretion doesn’t enter into it.

But Syria is no ordinary country.

The reopening of the National Museum of Damascus last year has afforded the Baathist regime several propaganda opportunities in its push to rehabilitate its global reputation and persuade the international community that Assad has won the scorched-earth war he has been waging on the Syrian people. Last Monday’s unveiling of the Hama mosaic at the National Museum was a propaganda victory for the regime. And quite a few Canadian officials, at the highest level, either signed off on the file or just let the transfer proceed without objection.

That is how Ramli ended up registered by Global Affairs Canada as an officially authorized diplomat, too. A Liberal Party donor and proprietor of the Cocktail Hawaii restaurant on Rue Maisonneuve, Ramli calls the heroic first responders of Syria’s White Helmets organization “terrorists” and al-Qaeda operatives. This was a bit much for Freeland, because last year, she led an international rescue operation that brought about 250 White Helmets and their families to settle as refugees in Canada.

Ramli obtained his honorary-consul credentials from Ottawa in August after travelling to Damascus in June, where he obtained his diplomatic appointment from the Assad regime only days after posing for photographs with Justin Trudeau at a Liberal Party fundraiser. He was all set to open a consular office in Montreal on Oct. 1, and he would have been the most senior Baathist official in North America, if Freeland hadn’t furiously intervened and revoked his credentials.

Ramli would have ended up with consular-services power over tens of thousands of Syrian immigrants and refugees across Eastern Canada and throughout much of the United States. That’s because Syrian diplomats were expelled from North America in 2012 in response to Assad’s crimes against humanity, and since then, honorary consulates have operated only in Vancouver and Montreal, and only intermittently. All requests for birth certificates, diplomas, remittance arrangments and so on would have had to run through Ramli.

Canada and the U.S. are among dozens of countries that have cut diplomatic ties with the Assad regime. Suspended from the Arab League in 2011 and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in 2012, Syria is a pariah state, subjected to United Nations sanctions, European Union sanctions, and U.S. and Canadian sanctions. But in dealing with the Assad regime’s application for diplomatic credentials on Ramli’s behalf, the “vetting” process fell apart. Everybody did their jobs, but nobody noticed the Office of Protocol standards stipulating that honorary consuls should be individuals of standing in the community, and shouldn’t be politically active. Syria was treated as though it were a normal country, like Costa Rica, or South Korea.

And in the matter of Ramli’s determination to retrieve the Hama mosaic on the Assad regime’s behalf, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act was followed as though Syria was France, or India, or Ireland.

Since 2011, when Assad first put the torch to his country, Syria’s cultural patrimony has been looted and traded on the black market by ISIS, pro-democracy rebels, and by the regime itself. The collection of artifacts containing the Hama mosaic had been spirited out of Syria in 1996, apparently by individuals close to the dictatorship of Bashar Assad’s father, Hafez Assad.

After he showed up out of the blue last Dec. 29 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts demanding the mosaic’s return, Ramli was politely received, and advised of the proper documentation he’d need to provide. Despite the Assad regime’s claim that the Canadian authorities had refused to return the mosaic “despite successive official demands,” Ramli was treated with every courtesy.

In January, Ramli returned to the museum with a letter from the Syria’s Ministry of Culture. On Feb. 4, Bashar Jaafari, the permanent representative of the Syrian Arab Republic at the United Nations, passed along Ramli’s power-of-attorney documents to Marc-André Blanchard, the former McCarthy-Tetrault chief executive officer and president of the Quebec Liberal Party that Trudeau had appointed Canada’s head of mission at the UN.

The unveiling of the 1,800-kilogram, late 5th Century Byzantine Christian mosaic at the National Museum on Damascus, as seen on the website of Syria’s state news agency. The mosaic had previously been at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. (SANA)

Blanchard handed it up, and on Feb. 12, Freeland’s office was formally advised of the proceedings. Andrew Leslie, the retired general and Orleans MP who served as Freeland’s parliamentary secretary, was brought into the loop in March. Rory Raudsepp-Hearne, Global Affairs’ team lead for Syria and Lebanon, signed off on it. So did senior cultural affairs officials with the Department of Canadian Heritage.

No sanctions lines were crossed because no money changed hands, and Canada’s custody of the mosaic ended in Lebanon. In Beirut. The Canadian embassy there formally handed custody off to Syrian officials for transport to Damascus.

The Hama mosaic is a thing of great beauty. It was excavated from the floor of a church or a convent that was built in the days before the arrival of the conquerer Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, when Hama was known in Byzantium as Emathoùs. It is adorned with Christian iconography—the tree of life, a chalice, sheep, fish and birds.

There’s little left of the beauty of Hama. In 1982, Bashar’s father, Hafez, laid siege to the city to quell a rebellion. The Syrian Human Rights Committee reckons 40,000 people died in the slaughter. Since 2011, when Bashar took up his father’s penchant for atrocity, Hama has been bombed, its people massacred over and over and over again.

As for the Hama mosaic: “Everything was done by the book,” a senior official close to Freeland explained to me. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. This kind of situation repeating itself is highly unlikely.”

Source: How Assad’s man got a priceless antiquity out of Canada and into Syria

Terry Glavin: Apparently blind spots extend to supporters of Syrian mass murderers

Full credit to Terry for having provided Syrian Canadians with a voice that forced government to reverse its decision:

Well, that’s done then.

That creepy fella who’s been driving around the streets of Montreal in a gigantic bright red Humvee with a 1Syria custom licence plate and a portrait of Syrian mass murderer Bashar al-Assad on a side window has finally fallen out of favour with the Liberal Party of Canada.

Waseem Ramli is now expunged from the party’s digital fundraising rolodexes. Banned from further photo opportunities with the dashing Justin Trudeau, and struck from the first-class invitation lists maintained by the embarrassed staffers who toil for Marc Miller, Liberal MP for Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Sœurs.

And thanks to the exasperated last-minute interventions of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — who is ordinarily smart enough not to get caught up in this kind of thing — the Baathist fanboy proprietor of the Cocktail Hawaii restaurant over on Rue Maisonneuve will not be entrusted, after all, with the delicate and confidential consular affairs of tens of thousands of Syrian immigrants and refugees who have fled Assad’s bloody nightmare state and ended up refugees, something like 60,000 of them, in Canada.

Waseem Ramli is now expunged from the party’s digital fundraising rolodexes

Blindsided badly by the Office of Protocol in her own Global Affairs bureaucracy, Freeland was furious with the revelation (yes that was me, I confess) in Maclean’s magazine on Monday that the colourful Mr. Ramli, Montreal’s notorious advocate of the world’s most thoroughly blood-soaked pariah state, had been greenlighted, duly authorized and credentialed by her own department to serve as honorary consul of the Syrian Arab Republic in Montreal.

Might it have been the poster-style photograph of Ramli and Trudeau that had been making the rounds after first appearing on Ramli’s Facebook page a few weeks ago? Was it the photograph of Ramli with Marc Miller from that same June 17 Liberal party “armchair conversation” fundraising event in Montreal? Is it not just possible that the Global Affairs’ authorization of Ramli was the result of a certain poor schmuck in the Office of Protocol who thought, “hey, he must be a good guy, a made guy, right?” Or maybe, “hey, I better just stamp this guy’s papers, because if I don’t, I’ll have the Prime Minister’s Office breathing down my neck, right?”

Everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes. Sometimes I file so late past my deadline I wonder why my editors still put up with me. I’ve never put on a woolly black wig and painted my face and hands and arms and legs black and jumped around with my tongue wagging out of my head, mind you. But to be fair to Trudeau, there is one explanation he’s offered for the serial blackface and brownface spectacle he’s made of himself over the years, which we are only now learning about, that makes some sense, in this particular context.

It’s this one: “I have always acknowledged that I come from a place of privilege, but I now need to acknowledge that comes with a massive blind spot,” he said.

Maybe he’s got some sort of blind spot, which similarly afflicts his old friend and fellow Montrealer Marc Miller, when it comes to people whose faces are vaguely brown. Maybe that would explain why Miller has had several friendly encounters with the generous Waseem Ramli over the years and yet somehow remained blissfully unaware of the eccentric restaurateur’s unseemly affiliations and the dread he instilled in Montreal’s Syrian refugee community.

Ramli tells me he’s not a Liberal party member. He was content to shell out several hundred dollars to attend that June 17 fundraiser and photo session with Trudeau, and he declined to tell me how much he’s contributed to the Liberal party, or to Miller’s war chest, over the years. As is his perfect right. And maybe it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with money. Marc Miller is not a bad man. He’s a genuinely decent guy. Maybe it’s just about votes, and the blind spot here is the thing some politicians imagine about votes coming in distinct colours. There certainly is a pattern, anyway. Sometimes it’s like déjà vu.

In the lead-up to the past federal election, some strange sort of blind spot afflicting the soft-palmed and the posh, or people with “privilege” as they now classify themselves, may well have been at work in the way nobody in the Liberal party noticed anything untoward about the affiliations of the party’s own national director of outreach, who went on to become a greenlighted contender for the Liberal candidacy in Nepean.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland… has overturned the approval of Montreal businessman Waseem Ramli, a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as Syria’s honorary consul in Montreal. Sebastien St.-Jean/AFP/Getty Images

Nour El Kadri, it turned out, was so intimately associated with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party that the SSNP’s cadre and literature had consistently and invariably described Kadri as one of the SSNP’s central leaders in Canada. And the SSNP, it fell to me to point out back then, was at the time a component of Bashar Assad’s ruling coalition, and its death squads were terrorizing the city of Homs and the suburbs of Damascus. You’d think a party with its own stylized swastika and an anthem sung to the tune of Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles might have been a giveaway.

But there’s that blind spot again.

And so those poor, banished children of Eve, the Syrians trudging the roads of the world in their millions, among whom some paltry few thousand have been permitted to settle in Canada, and it is their place to tell us how lovely we are for allowing them in, and this is the sort of thing they see. A Humvee, of exactly the kind that the Shabiha drive around Damascus, at night, and the horror stories of kids who never made it through their checkpoints, and now here in Canada a bright red one, with a portrait of Bashar on the side, in the streets of Montreal. And it becomes unbearable, and they make a telephone call to some journalist they know. And they ask whether something might be done about their dread, and they fear they would be seen as insufficiently appreciative of the handsome and dashing prime minister who built his reputation on being so kind to them, the man who so generously allowed them to come, if they complained too loudly. And they ask, please, don’t use my name, because they are afraid of the man in the Humvee.

Hell of a blind spot to fail to see the shame and the disgrace in that.

Source: Terry Glavin: Apparently blind spots extend to supporters of Syrian mass murderers

Glavin: Beijing casts shadow of fear across Canada

Terry Glavin and Ian Young have valid points along with a good thought experiment to underline them. The distinction between “Canada’s Chinese community” and Chinese Canadians is an important one:

Serving mainly the city’s ethnic Chinese community, Vancouver’s Tenth Church, in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, has been a venerable Vancouver institution, a refuge for the poor and the marginalized, since the 1930s. During a prayer service on Sunday, Aug. 19, a braying, flag-waving mob gathered outside. It took 20 officers from the Vancouver Police Department to guard the church doors, block passing traffic, and escort the frightened parishioners, at the conclusion of the service, through a gathered crowd of more than 100 people.

That same weekend, in Montreal, another crowd of shouting flag-wavers crashed the Pride parade after bullying organizers into barring a group of LGBTQ Chinese-Canadians from participating in the parade. Leading up to the event, on social media, the bullies had talked about following members of the ethnic Chinese group after the parade, to beat them up. The bullies went on to march alongside the annual Montreal parade in their own column, belting out a fiercely nationalistic song in a disruption of the conventional moment of silence honouring the gay community’s dead from homophobic murders, and from the time of the AIDS crisis.

In the case of the Vancouver incident, the mob was made up of people who had showed up earlier in the day, waving Chinese flags, to disrupt a rally in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement that had assembled outside the Vancouver consulate of the People’s Republic of China. The flag wavers heard about the prayer service, which was devoted to Hong Kong’s protesters, and followed the church-goers from the rally.

At the time, a thought occurred to me. Why wasn’t this a Canada-wide, above-the-fold national news story? That little puzzle is easily solved. Most of the churchgoers were not white people, and neither was the mob. They were all mostly ethnic Chinese. If the mob had been made up of preposterously nationalistic, flag-waving white people, it would have been a shocking story about a horrible, racist incident in Vancouver. But if the Christians had been mostly white people, and the mob mostly ethnic Chinese, the incident would have been lurid grist for racist teeth-grinding mills and radio hotline shouters from coast to coast.

In the case of the Montreal Pride incident, a similar thought occurred to the South China Morning Post’s Ian Young, who has developed a habit of breaking big stories overlooked by Canada’s mainstream news media. Based in Vancouver, Young ended up reporting the most complete story about what had happened in Montreal, and his thought experiment went like this: What if a mob of flag-waving American right-wingers had threatened violence and bullied the Pride organizers into expelling an ethnic Chinese group that wanted to honour Hong Kong’s LGBT community? What if the right-wingers had then crashed the parade with their own marchers, and the song they belted out during the solemn moment of silence was the Star-Spangled Banner?

You can probably imagine how widely and thoroughly a story like that would have been reported, and the sorts of stirring speeches our politicians would have made about it. But the bullies in Montreal were from the same pro-Beijing cohort as the bullies in Vancouver, and the song they sang was March of the Volunteers, the anthem of the People’s Republic of China.

You can’t say that the event in Montreal was racist, or even necessarily homophobic, exactly, just as it can’t be said that what happened in Vancouver was categorically racist, or even a straightforward case of religious bigotry. But it is exceedingly difficult to argue that something kindred to racism is not at least involved to some degree, in the way the news media fails to pay attention to the phenomenon of Beijing’s bullying and influence-peddling in Canada. And in the way our politicians, from all the political parties, if only most egregiously the Liberal Party, pander and placate in these matters.

It may not be exactly racist to resort to the term “Canada’s Chinese community,” but it will get you off on the wrong foot, and if you’re not careful, whatever your intentions, you may end up at least serving a fundamentally racist purpose.

There at nearly 2 million people of Chinese descent in Canada, but until very recently, owing to migration facilitated mainly by the scandal-plagued and now-shuttered federal Immigrant Investor Program, Canada’s ethnic Chinese came almost exclusively from the five Cantonese-speaking communities at the mouth of the Pearl River and adjacent areas around Hong Kong. Among Canada’s immigrants classified as ethnic Chinese, there are at least hundreds of thousands of people that Beijing describes in the argot of Communist Party propaganda as the “five poisons”: Taiwanese, Tibetan and Uighur nationalists, followers of Falun Gong religious practices, and democrats.

Increasingly, these Canadians are living in fear. If they aren’t careful about what they say, their family members back in China will end up being badgered, blacklisted, or worse. This fear is particularly acute among Canada’s Uighurs, whose fellow Muslims in Xinjiang have been interned, as many as 2 million of them, in re-education camps.

The fear is spreading in Canada, now that Hong Kong is in turmoil. It is restraining Canadians from exercising their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly in the Chinese-language news media — now controlled almost entirely by wealthy pro-Beijing interests — and in their decisions about whether to risk raising their voices or attending rallies in support of pro-democracy Hongkongers. It is spreading on university campuses — Beijing closely monitors the activities of Canada’s nearly 80,000 Chinese student-visa holders — and Beijing’s United Front Works Department now effectively controls hundreds of Chinese community and business associations, big and small, across Canada.

In these ways, Beijing is asserting its international reach to undermine the inviolable human rights of hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens, and by the reckoning of the Geneva-based Human Rights Watch organization, the problem is getting worse. Earlier this year, Amnesty International and a coalition of diaspora groups presented the Canadian Security Intelligence Service with an exhaustive study that describes in detail the threats and harassment Beijing and its operatives in Canada are spreading.

“Definitely, people are afraid to speak out,” Ivy Li of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong told me. “But it is a dilemma. People are also afraid of backlash, that Canadians in the mainstream will think all Chinese Canadians are involved in infiltration, or are working for Beijing, and will be suspect.”

Li, who emigrated from Hong Kong decades ago, said she has personally experienced hostility owing to perfectly well-justified concerns about Chinese money-laundering and the gross distortions created by Chinese capital investment in the real estate market. “But Canadians are very considerate, and we want our society to be more fair and just, and so this fear of being accused of racism, it is part of why mainstream society, especially the media, allows the pro-Beijing supporters to play the racism card.”

The role racism plays in these necessary debates is obviously complex, but even the most virtuous Canadian politicians have been happy to see Chinese immigrants as cash cows, and to regard Chinese Canadians as voting blocs, Li tells me, “and as Chinese diaspora first, rather than as Canadian citizens first.

“This allows Beijing to own at least part of us in Canada, and it means we are left to fend for ourselves against the Chinese government. And that is racist.”

Source: Glavin: Beijing casts shadow of fear across Canada

Glavin: While Hong Kong fights for democracy, Canada goes silent

Will be interesting to continue to watch how this issue plays out among Chinese Canadians, mainland and Hong Kong origin, the degree that this is reflected in Chinese language ethnic media and whether this becomes an election issue for Chinese Canadians and party messaging:

All flights out of Hong Kong International Airport were cancelled this afternoon as authorities blamed protesters for disruptions following a brutal police crackdown on street demonstrations over the weekend. In the most dramatic civil disturbances since Hong Kong was turned over to China in 1997, more than 600 people have been arrested in what has been a largely non-violent uprising. It has carried on for 10 straight weeks.

In an ominous escalation of its threats of retaliation, Beijing dispatched a massive convoy of armoured vehicles from the Peoples Armed Police that arrived Saturday at a stadium in Shenzhen, just across the border from the semi-autonomous financial hub. Last Tuesday in Shenzhen, following a general strike that paralyzed much of Hong Kong, more than 12,000 “anti-riot” police engaged in elaborate mock riot-suppression drills. On Sunday, a senior Communist Party official declared that “the first signs of terrorism” are beginning to appear in Hong Kong.

The confrontations over the weekend sent 40 people to hospital, including protesters, volunteer medics, journalists and bystanders. They were injured by baton-swinging police or struck by tear-gas canisters, rubber bullets or bean-bag rounds fired at close range directly into groups of people in crowded metro stations.

The Hong Kong protests have been escalating ever since June 9, when a million people marched in opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill that anticipated the integration of Hong Kong into China’s penal system. The protesters’ demands quickly grew to include the full withdrawal of the proposed law, a retraction of the “riot” classification that put protesters arrested in a series of clashes on June 12 at risk of 10-year prison sentences, amnesty for all arrested protesters, an independent inquiry into police conduct, and perhaps most importantly, the relaunch of a promised electoral reform process—the main objective of the failed 2014 “Umbrella Movement” protests—to establish a system of one person, one vote.

This summer’s protests constitute the most direct challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he consolidated power seven years ago and embarked on a policy of accelerated internal repression and outward neo-imperialist belligerence. Xi’s reign has been marked by intensive surveillance and ramped-up censorship, the persecution of human rights defenders and the mass incarceration of the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang.

His foreign-policy initiatives include the annexation of the South China Sea, the militarization of China’s global “Belt and Road” initiative and a series of outlandishly aggressive moves, not least the “hostage diplomacy” at work in the arbitrary arrests of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The protest leadership, meanwhile, is organic and profoundly democratic, bringing together a diverse cross section of Hong Kong Society that includes separatists, young, disaffected militants, middle-class democrats, the Roman Catholic church and the Hong Kong Law Society. Squared off against Xi’s authoritarian regime in Beijing and his incompetent regional puppet, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s protest movement has tried and largely failed to win support from the world’s liberal democracies.

A recent poll by Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Research Institute found that while 58 per cent of the protesters are animated by their dismal economic prospects, mostly in relation to housing, 84 per cent say they’re protesting on account of their distrust of Lam’s administration, and 87 per cent are taking to the streets for the “pursuit of democracy.”

Natalie Hui, a senior member of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong organization, says Canadians are not facing up to the dire implications of the Hong Kong crisis, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is foolishly wishing it would all just go away. “What we are seeing in Hong Kong is a crystal ball for Canada,” Hui told me.

There are at least 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong. Canada is home to another 1.5 million ethnic Chinese. Many have family in mainland China, and they fear that their relatives will be harassed if they speak up. The Trudeau government’s policy of business-as-usual trade engagement and otherwise saying nothing to arouse Beijing’s ire will do nothing in the cause of freeing Spavor and Kovrig, who were arrested in retaliation for last December’s detention in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou. The chief financial officer for the Zhenzhen telecom giant Huawei, Meng was picked up on a U.S. Justice Department extradition warrant on charges of bank fraud and evading U.S. sanctions on Iran.

On the bright side, Hui said Hongkongers are showing that you can fight Beijing, and if you won’t necessarily win you won’t necessarily lose, either. Hongkongers have fought Beijing to a draw, so far, and they’ve managed to stop the extradition bill in its tracks. “Hong Kong is showing that you can push back. They are inside the mouth of the lion, but they still say no to the regime. But we must take action now.”

The Trudeau government, however, has failed to uphold the global values it so loudly claims to cherish. “This is a very critical moment in history. I don’t want to demoralize people but I think the Chinese Communist Party will destroy peoples’ careers and arrest a lot of people. Canada is weak. As a Canadian citizen, I have not seen anything from our government. We have emboldened China’s thuggish behaviours, because we haven’t done anything. It’s just silence.”

Maclean’s reached out to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office for comment, but got no response.

David Mulroney, Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, agrees that silence is the worst policy. “We’ve really, really let down the side. It may be too little, too late now, but I’d like to see clearer statements from the foreign minister and the Prime Minister. Anything is better than silence.”

The horrible predicament that Kovrig and Spavor face is no excuse for Canada’s silence, Mulroney said. “China is hoping they can so intimidate people and cow people in the west that they can achieve their aims with almost no cost to themselves. When Canada is silent, when much of Europe other than the U.K. is silent, it’s easier to get away with what they’re trying to do, to undermine what freedoms Hong Kong still has.

“You’ve got to be honest with China. You’ve got to be direct with China, whether it’s detentions of Canadian citizens or attacks on democracy and autonomy in Hong Kong, we have to speak up whenever we can. I don’t think our silence does anything other than confirm China in its commitment to hostage diplomacy. If they find that by doing this they secure our silence, it makes it even more likely that they’ll do it in the future. It confirms them in their proclivity to take hostages and detain people. So it does nothing to change their behaviour.”

While U.S. President Donald Trump has been worse than useless—Trump has praised Xi for his restraint in dealing with Hongkongers, and has referred to the protests as “riots”—one of Hong Kong’s best hopes at the moment is the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy bill that’s up for consideration in the U.S. Congress when the summer recess ends after Labour Day. Mulroney has added his name to a letter from a long list of China experts, directed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging quick adoption of the bill.

Among other things, the bill would potentially remove Hong Kong’s special status in U.S. trade law, a status that has allowed China to evade rules and sanctions by employing Hong Kong as a conduit for inbound and outbound investment since the early 1990s. The bill would also suspend visa restrictions on criminal convictions for individuals convicted for participating in demonstrations, and would sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials deemed guilty of human rights abuses.

Passage of the bill could put Beijing on notice that if the Hong Kong democracy movement is crushed, Beijing would reap no benefit, but would instead stand to be punished severely in its trade relationships with the United States.

It’s too bad that Canada isn’t contemplating a similar law, Mulroney said. Hui agreed.

“A Canadian law, like that. That is my dream, that we could do that,” she said. “That is my dream.”

Source: While Hong Kong fights for democracy, Canada goes silent

Glavin: Some say anti-elitist populism is sweeping Canada. Don’t believe them.

Glavin’s provides perspective on populism and on the latest from Samara (2019 Democracy 360 seriesDon’t Blame “The People”: The Rise of Elite-led Populism in Canada). Great closing line:

It’s a question that has perplexed political scientists, the punditry and quite a few politicians. What is it about Canada that has allowed this country to dodge the populist waves engulfing the United States, the United Kingdom and no small swathe of the European continent? The question commonly arises in tandem with warnings, or threats, that the spectre of populist mobilization is on the near horizon, or that it’s already upon us.

Well, hold on a minute.

For starters, it’s helpful to recall that we’ve already been there and done that. A populist wave swept Canada back in the early 1990s, and it crashed on the rocks of a broken Progressive Conservative Party, failed to breach Ontario and Quebec, and spent its power in schism, factionalism and failed image makeovers. Eventually the movement dribbled back into the reconstructed Conservative Party of Canada, in 2003, and it had withered enough by 2006 to clear the way for Stephen Harper to win his first minority Conservative government.

As for a rejuvenated Canadian populism arising as an echo of Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again histrionics, or as a replication of the English nativism that reduced Britain to the shambles of Brexit, or as a copycat craze inspired by the gilets jaunes upheavals in France or the oddball populist poll victories in Italy, Hungary and most recently in Spain—don’t count on it. At least don’t count on it arising organically from an alienated and fed-up populace.

That’s the takeaway point in the Samara Centre for Democracy’s latest number-crunching from its extensive 2019 Democracy 360 series, a project Samara undertakes every two years to analyze the way Canadians communicate, participate, and lead in politics. As it turns out, populism is not on the rise in Canada—except perhaps as a stalking horse for politicians. Samara’s new report, titled “Don’t Blame ‘the People’: The Rise of Elite-Led Populism in Canada,” finds that the usual indices for populist alienation have been in steady decline since the Reform Party heyday of the 1990s. Politicians and some journalists are speaking the language of populism again, but by and large, the public isn’t. Not by a long shot.

Back in the mid-1990s, the Canadian Election Survey found that roughly 75 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement, “I don’t think the government cares much what people like me think.” Samara’s finding, based on its survey of more than 4,000 Canadians earlier this year, finds that fewer than 60 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement.

It may or may not be disturbing that 63 per cent of the survey respondents agreed that “those elected to Parliament soon lose touch with the people,” and those respondents may or may not be right. But that’s down from the 77 per cent who agreed with the statement in 2004, and way down from the 85 per cent who agreed in 1993.

It should be disturbing to anyone who values the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that four in 10 Canadians agree that “the will of the majority should always prevail, even over the rights of minorities.” But the upside is that fewer Canadians hold to that view than in 2011 (six in 10) or in 2001 (seven in 10).

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has given voice to the concern that public anxieties about “the elites” could rattle the western consensus that the rules-based liberal world order needs to be defended. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has written a book about the growing trend in populism and how to harness it, from a conservative standpoint, for the public good. Former New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent warns that “the elites” are standing in the way of necessary economic and political redistribution. Since the 2015 election of the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau, “the elites” have come up in Parliament in 13 per cent of its sitting days. That’s up from three per cent during Harper’s term in power.

People who bang on about the elites also tend to whinge a great deal about “the mainstream media,” but in Canada, most people aren’t so inclined. The latest annual Edelman Trust Barometer, an opinion survey of 33,000 people in 26 countries, finds that Canadians are not losing faith in the news media, and Canadians show a higher rate of trust in journalism than respondents in just about every other country surveyed.

The Samara Centre defines populism as a style of doing politics and a set of attitudes and beliefs about politics and society. Populist leaders imagine politics as a conflict between two groups, usually “the elites” wielding largely unaccountable power over “the real people.” This can be fatal to democratic institutions, and populists who win elections quickly develop the habit of using people-power as a mere pretext to use the instruments of the state to go after judges, academics, journalists, political adversaries—anyone who stands in their way. And populism is by no means solely a phenomenon of right-wing politics, Michael Morden, research director at the Samara Centre, told me.

The anti-capitalist “left” mobilized hundreds of thousands of people during the 1990s to huge demonstrations against “the elites” of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other anchors of the liberal world order. But popular antipathy to those institutions ended up being harnessed most successfully in the U.S. by Donald Trump.

“Populism has been used to give licence to different kinds of radicalism. I think blame should be apportioned across the spectrum,” Morden said. “If you want to create more racists, then you generate a narrative that there’s more racists in society than there really are.”

Exaggerating the extent of populism is playing with matches, in other words, while populism is playing with fire.

Source: Some say anti-elitist populism is sweeping Canada. Don’t believe them.

Why race and immigration are a gathering storm in Canadian politics: Glavin; Could all the parties just cool the rhetoric on racism and immigration? Cardozo

Two good columns on the politics and perils of immigration as an election battleground. Starting with Terry Glavin dissecting some of the recent polling data along with some good thoughtful commentary by Frank Graves of Ekos:

Going by quite a few headlines, commentaries and social media hot-takes making the rounds these days, you’d never know it, but Canadians are not working themselves up into a lather about immigrants or people of colour. We’re not suddenly becoming mean to refugees. There is no surge in bloody-minded racial bigotry arising among ordinary Canadians, and there’s no evidence for any dramatic spike in the numbers of Canadians who don’t like non-whites coming to this country.

That’s the good news.

Some politicians continue to blow their vulgar anti-immigrant dog-whistles, and some make partisan mischief by whatever means seem plausible enough to make their adversaries look bad. But when it comes to immigrants and refugees, Canadians in general tend to be a lot less excitable or inclined to racism than is convenient to certain strangely popular narratives at the moment.

It’s true that having once exerted themselves to out-compete the Opposition in their efforts to show mercy to Syrian refugees, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are pulling off a complete U-turn on the alleged “asylum-shopping” of refugee claimants. They’ve tucked away a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in an omnibus budget implementation bill that would seriously impair the access of some refugees to a full and fair hearing of their claims. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has moved to eliminate funding for refugee and immigration aid law services.

At the fringes, hate crimes are up, and white-nationalist delirium is becoming fashionable among a creepy subset of far-right and friendless unemployable young men. It would be easy to misread the public mood. But the public mood is not taking any dramatic turns for the worse.

Nonetheless, something new and alarming is definitely happening in Canadian public opinion, says Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates. EKOS has been annually tracking Canadian attitudes about immigration since the 1990s, and you don’t have to drill down very deep into the latest EKOS data to see it. It’s right there in the fine tuning of the findings the firm released last week.

The bad news is that for the first time since EKOS began its tracking in the 1990s, dyspepsia about the pace of immigration has coalesced with resentments about the rate of non-white newcomers to Canada. And that bloc of public opinion is consolidating for the first time behind a single political party—Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

This is happening whether Scheer’s Conservatives want it or not. Whether or not voters with unfavourable and in some cases decidedly unseemly views about Canada’s current immigration policies are being actively drawn to the Conservatives, or are simply being repelled by the annoying, not-racist-like-you histrionics of the Liberals, something unprecedented is happening.

The EKOS poll finds that roughly 40 per cent of Canadians harbour an unfavourable view of both the pace of immigration and the proportion of “visible minority” people among immigrants. Among the EKOS poll respondents who said there were too many non-whites among Canada’s newly-arrived immigrants, 69 per cent identified as Conservatives, while only 15 percent identified as Liberals. As NDP and Green voters, 27 percent and 28 percent, respectively, said the same.

The reason this is so dangerous is that the conflation of immigration policy with race is threatening to determine the way Canadians vote. It doesn’t matter which party benefits from this in the short run. It’s bad news all round. It’s the marker of what could be a descent into the same debilitating authoritarian-populist abyss into which the United States and much of Europe has fallen, Graves told me. “The inevitable result is a partisan polarization into two irreconcilable camps.”

It’s bad enough that the Scheer’s Conservatives have allowed these tendencies to become normalized among the party’s supporters, Graves said. What’s just as bad is a tendency among Liberals and the liberal-left generally to conflate genuine concerns people might have about refugees, or about how Canada’s demographics are changing, with the crudest xenophobia and the lowest types of racism.

“It doesn’t help. The moral critique, calling people out as Nazis or racists, and painting large portions of the population with this kind of inflammatory language, it’s really not helping. It makes things worse,” Graves said. That’s the way things went in the United States, and the result was the last thing either liberals or traditional conservatives wanted—the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. “The Americans don’t have anything to teach us,” Graves said.

“We have largely been inoculated from the vicious debates that have torn the United States and a lot of Europe apart. That’s why I’m so troubled to see this informing voters’ choice in Canada.”

It’s perfectly reasonable to conclude, for instance, that Trudeau was dead wrong to insist that there was no “crisis” involved his government’s handling of the roughly 40,000 irregular refugee claimants who have walked across the border since early 2017. By last August, two-thirds of Canadians in an Angus Reid poll said “crisis” was a perfectly suitable description. More than half the respondents who said so were Liberals.

Team Trudeau found itself in a similar predicament two years ago during the fractious House of Commons debates surrounding M-103, the Liberals’ proposed resolution to establish a committee inquiry into the spectre of “more than one million Canadians who suffer because of Islamophobia, who are victimized on a daily basis.” Awkardly, a CBC-Environics poll and a CBC-Angus Reid Institute poll were in hand that painted quite a different picture. While 68 per cent of Canadians said minorities should work harder to “fit in” to Canadian culture, the same view was offered by 57 per cent of Muslim respondents. Only nine per cent of the Muslims surveyed identified discrimination as a factor that made them uncomfortable living in Canada—a third said the worst thing was all the snow. A follow-up Angus Reid poll found that 33 per cent of respondents who opposed the Islamophobia motion were Liberal supporters.

Neither is there anything louche in the proposition that Trudeau was just the tiniest bit hypocritical to dispatch Border Security Minister Bill Blair with instructions to attempt a renegotiation of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States in hopes of shutting down the border-crossing upsurge—after making ugly accusations about xenophobia and hysterics among the Conservatives who’d been urging him to do that very thing, all along.

Still, Trudeau is dead right to say, as he has been saying quite a lot at his round of town halls lately, that Canadians remain mostly “positively inclined” towards immigration and towards Canada’s immigration policies. More importantly, Trudeau has pointed out that Canadians must have confidence that they are in control of immigration, that immigration is managed. It’s the loss of control, a sense of a lost sovereignty, that has fuelled far-right populism from Brexit in the United Kingdom to the Make America Great Again hyperventilation in the United States.

The EKOS poll finding that roughly 40 per cent of Canadians think too many immigrants are allowed into the country every year isn’t even especially newsworthy. Last December, an Ipsos poll found nearly half of its respondents agreed, at least somewhat, that immigration is changing Canada in ways they didn’t like, and at least four in ten agreed “too many” immigrants were coming to Canada. In the EKOS poll trend lines over time, the proportion of Canadians who hold that view is not growing. It’s shrinking. More than 60 per cent of the annual EKOS poll respondents held to a “too many immigrants” view in the 1990s. The percentage wobbled on a downward trajectory to 2005, then wavered up towards 50 percent, and dropped down to 40 per cent again this year.

Canadians who say there are “too many visible minorities” among immigrants have always been fewer in number than the “too many immigrants” respondents, and the trajectory of that opinion bloc has similarly tracked downward over the years. But from a low of 30 per cent in 2005, the EKOS poll respondents who say there are “too many visible minorities” among immigrants has climbed back up to meet the “too many immigrants” response, at 39.9 per cent in the latest EKOS poll.

This is dangerous. Opposition to immigration is no longer driven by more easily remediable anxieties, ill-informed or not, that Canada’s high pace of immigration is bad for jobs, or housing costs, or community stability, or stresses on public services. About 300,000 people settle in Canada every year, and Ottawa wants to see the number rise to 350,000 by 2021. That’s a small number compared to Canada’s population of nearly 38 million. But roughly one in five Canadians is foreign-born—the highest proportion of any G7 country—and most immigrants since 2001 have not been “white.” They come mainly from Asia and the Middle East. About one in five Canadian citizens now falls into the Census Canada “visible minority” category.

Still, the EKOS poll does not tell anything like a straightforward story of white people with an attitude problem about non-white newcomers. Non-white Canadians appear even more likely than most Canadians to say there are too many non-white immigrants coming to Canada. While 39.9 percent of respondents overall said there were too many “visible minorities” among Canada’s newly arriving immigrants, the percentage of “visible minority” respondents who agreed with the statement in the EKOS poll was 42.8 per cent.

Xenophobia, racism and divisive rhetoric about immigration is something that Canada’s political leaders should take extremely seriously. But the Liberal government has occasionally and quite casually attributed those lurid motives to Conservative and popular alarms over the rapid rise since 2017 in the number of “irregular” border-crossing by asylum claimants. About half the claimants have been from Nigeria and Haiti, and the overall number of border-crossers is now declining. Racists shouted as loudly as they ever do about this, but as for widespread public concerns that the border-crossers were not genuine refugees, that wasn’t necessarily a judgment rooted in racism or xenophobia. It turns out that less than half the border-crossers’ claims that have been finalized so far have been accepted; about 40 per cent were rejected and the balance were abandoned or withdrawn.

As is necessary in any deep dive into an opinion poll’s findings, it’s worthwhile to look closely at its margins of error. The EKOS poll random sample of 1,045 Canadians comes with an error margin of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20. And when you get down into the weeds of respondent subcategories—Conservative voters, Liberal voters, visible-minority respondents and so on—the margin of error can increase quite dramatically.

But when you weigh the data statistically across the board to reflect the composition of Canada’s population, as EKOS does, you get a pretty clear picture of what people think. And because “visible minority” is becoming an increasingly obtuse category as Canada’s population grows more ethnically and racially diverse, EKOS conducted some experimental testing, and it showed that the term “non-white” produces the same results.

But getting back to some good news that similarly upsets the usual “narrative” apple carts, last month another opinion poll, this one a global survey by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., found that ordinary Canadians have the most favourable view of immigrants among the world’s 18 highest immigrant-taking countries. Canadian respondents were more likely than anyone else to say immigration is a public good. Canadians were the least likely to identify immigration as a burden, or a source of crime, or a risk of terrorism.

Importantly, Canada turns out to be less polarized on the issue of immigration than any of the other countries surveyed, too, the Pew Center concluded. Canada’s conservatives are more upbeat about immigration than “left-wing” opinion in several of the other countries surveyed. Only 27 per cent of Canadian respondents said immigrants were a liability or that immigrants took away jobs, and on the bright side, 68 per cent of Canadian respondents said immigrants make Canada stronger.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s own annual tracking survey, carried out last August and September, produced results fairly similar to the EKOS poll. The federal survey benefited from a much larger sample size—2,800 respondents, with an error margin of plus or minus 1.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20. And it adds a couple of insights consistent with the EKOS findings.

Canadians who say immigration rates are too high do not appear to hold that disfavourable view solely on account of some mistaken belief that immigration rates are higher than they actually are. When told that the actual number of immigrants coming to Canada every year was 300,000, the proportion of respondents who said there were “too many” immigrants jumped from 28 per cent to 37 per cent—a figure close to the 39.9 per cent in the EKOS findings.

While the EKOS poll found that visible-minority Canadians are oddly more likely than Canadians in general to say there are “too many” visible-minority immigrants coming to Canada, the federal tracking survey found a similar irony. Forty-one percent of third-generation Canadians said that 300,000 immigrants a year was too many, but 15 per cent of recently-arrived Canadians, even—immigrants who have lived in Canada for less than five years—said they felt the same way. But overall, roughly half of the federal tracking survey respondents said Canada’s immigration levels were just about right.

Andrew Griffith, former director general of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, and the author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, says that for all the uproars and controversies, Canada is still doing well as an experiment in multiculturalism.

The country maintains a generous immigration policy and a reasonably generous refugee policy, and that should not be expected to change without an enormous upheaval. Canadian public opinion on these matters is a fairly steady-state phenomenon. About a third are enthusiasts, about a third are sufficiently content, and a final third have serious reservations.

But that last third is not a homogeneous constituency of irredeemable bigots. If you want the surprisingly successful Canadian experiment to continue, you can’t corral that constituency into the same roped-off quarantine area where actually-existing racists and alarmists properly belong. They’ll all just stew in their own juices.

“People are far too quick to whip out the racism card when it serves their interests,” Griffth said. “But you can’t write off a third of the population. Those people are the people you have to engage with.”

Source: Why race and immigration are a gathering storm in Canadian politics

Andrew Cardozo, of the Pearson Centre, offers some good advice to both sides:

White supremacists. Islamophobia. Systemic racism. Racialized people. Irregular entrants.

These are hot words on Parliament Hill these days. These are all terms that identify problems facing Canadian social cohesion and are often discussed without a common understanding.

Discussion around race and racism are delicate at the best of times, but when they get hotter and more serious it gets harder to have a discussion. Add politics and it’s just not a good mix.

It is fair to say that today the activists who work to combat racism are getting further and further from those who have concerns about the changing nature of our society and the changing power balances.

Critical race theory is an area that has been attracting increased analysis and debate. To put it very generally it is the academic field of research that examines racism. This field has developed exponentially in the last few decades, and with each passing phase of advancement, there is a new terminology; where the old terminology can be seen as both inaccurate and often offensive. An example is the change in terminology to describe African Americans or First Nations peoples.

And as this has grown, so has the resistance to it.

Research on racism in recent years has found that four groups are particularly affected by hardcore racists—a phenomenon that is both uniquely Canadian, in some ways, and universal in others.

The four groups are Indigenous peoples, African-Canadians, Jews, and Muslims. Many others face discrimination to varying degrees too.

Indigenous peoples are coming into a new reality and self-awareness. The First Peoples of this land are finally being recognized for their rights in a manner that has always been enshrined in the Canadian Constitution but was never taught in school or practised by governments. So today when pipelines are delayed or halted, there is a new conflict of values which was just ignored in the past.

But the racism they have faced covers everything from state-imposed colonialism, on-reserve housing, and residential schools, to troubled police relations, and child welfare systems that are hugely inappropriate. They also face simple old-fashioned racism from some members of the public, going from ill-informed stereotypes to name calling and occasional violence.

All this while the Indigenous population is the fastest growing group in Canada with more than 50 per cent of the population under 25 years old, and a growing sense of confidence and assertion of their rightful and constitutional place in Canada.

The movement of peoples in the world has been growing significantly in recent decades, and a large part of this is non-white people moving to predominantly white countries (although there are significant movements among non-white people too, think of the Syrian and the Rohingya refugees and their neighbouring countries).

The black community is both very old, dating back to the Loyalists on the East Coast to new arrivals from the Caribbean and Africa. The racism faced here is both of the everyday name-calling variety, to job discrimination and troubled relations with police that has an uncanny resemblance to that faced by African Americans south of the border.

Their contributions are significant in many sectors including medicine and nursing, education, small business and labour, and increasingly in politics. For example, Rawlson King was the most recent addition to Ottawa City Council through a byelection (making him the city’s first-ever black councillor), adding to the more than 50 African Canadians who have served at all levels of government.

Anti-semitism goes back to the time of Jesus Christ if not before, and while there is little questioning of the contribution of Jews to our society, this racism is of a variety that either has its strength in neo-Nazi movements, which are growing and becoming more strident and open, or to politics of the Middle East, where opposition to Israel can get conflated with anti-Jewish sentiment and certainly anti-Jewish movements. Anti-Semitic violence at synagogues for example is prevalent and threatening.

Muslim immigration to Canada has increased significantly and they are among the fastest growing religious groups in Canada. This is happening in a geopolitical context where there are significant terrorist movements who proclaim their work to be in the name of Islam. While Canadian Muslims have little or nothing to do with those groups and condemn the violence, it is a dark cloud that bhangs over their heads. The coincidental growing traditionalism, most evident in head coverings of some Muslim women, is a movement which is separate, but not unrelated, as some feel increasingly isolated and/or need to assert their cultural particularities. Some Canadians feel threatened or uncomfortable with this as there is opposition to traditional or religious garments of Jews, Sikhs, and Indigenous peoples. The contribution of Muslims in Canada tells an interesting story, as their numbers grow in major professions including medicine, law, politics, business, academia, entertainment, and even the NHL.

So we have a third Quebec government trying to bring in a law that limits religious symbols, a project that can never be trouble free.

A new Ekos poll which finds that 42 per cent of Canadians feel there are too many non-white immigrants to Canada is noteworthy, and more significant is that that number is at 71 per cent among Conservative voters, 34 per cent among Greens, 28 per cent among New Democrats and 19 per cent among Liberals. The high numbers on resistance to non-white immigration is worrisome, but also explains why Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pursue their particular lines of argument these days.

It would be terribly facile and unhelpful for Conservative opponents to brand them all negatively. Even 19 per cent is high, as is the 42 per cent average for Canadians.

On the one hand, the Conservatives should consider toning down their messaging—it usually doesn’t work well for any one, not even electorally. And for any progressive purists—don’t allow a “basket of deplorables” moment in Canada. It didn’t work out well for Hillary Clinton and it won’t work out well for Liberals here either.

Rather than finger-pointing and name-calling, it would be better for the country, as a whole, to calm the rhetoric on all sides.

And to the anti-racism activists, it is important to make the movement more accessible rather than less. Terminology needs to be easier to use and less exclusive. Every community, whether they be environmentalists, stock brokers or doctors, have a constantly evolving set of terms and acronyms that have the effect of excluding others. Now is not the time to insist the exact right and latest jargon, but rather to tone down the rhetoric.

All sides have a choice: politicize and drive wedges or lower the temperature and bring people together. Weaponize the debate or bring more people on to the side of combating division, supremacy, and phobias. It’s that simple.

Terry Glavin: There are more crucial issues than the colour of Vancouver’s council

I agree more with Tolley (see Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk) than Glavin here (perhaps not surprisingly). The thought experiment I often use is how would I feel if I could not see myself reflected in political leadership and institutions? Would I be comfortable or not? Could I completely divorce feelings about my identity from the more intellectual choices in public policy? And could the abysmally low turn-out be tied to lack of representation or not?

And the other question to ask, where Terry has a point, would more diverse municipal councils address more or less effectively the issues facing the municipalities? In general, more diverse voices ensure better consideration of different perspectives, but not automatically so:

You might think it would be bad enough to show up again this year near the top of Demographia’s listings of cities with the least affordable housing markets in the world, and a rental vacancy rate of less than one per cent, and to have been reduced to ground zero of Canada’s fentanyl crisis, with a worldwide reputation as the epicentre of a global money-laundering system run by organized crime networks in China.

You might also think it is a bit disturbing that Vancouverites are apparently so dispirited by all this, and perhaps even convinced beyond doubt that there is nothing that can be done about any of it, that voter turnout in Vancouver’s recent civic election was about 40 per cent.

On the bright side, it’s a good thing that mayor Gregor “Happy Planet” Robertson and his Vision Vancouver team, after having presided over Vancouver’s transformation from Lotusland’s Metropolis to a seedy gangland paradise of drug-money laundering and shady real estate swindles, is now in history’s dustbin. On the downside, Robertson’s successor, Kennedy Stewart, won the race for the mayor’s office backed by only about 12 per cent of the city’s eligible voters.

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart celebrates with his wife, Dr. Jeanette Ashe, after addressing supporters in Vancouver on Oct. 21, 2018.

Whatever might be said about all that, the post-election thing to get worked up about, judging by reports in the Toronto Star, the local CBC news, various city webzines and the Twitter hashtag #councilsowhite, is the noticeably pale complexion of the new city council members, save one. Pete Fry. His Trinidad-born mother is the Vancouver Liberal fixture Hedy Fry, the long-serving MP for Vancouver-Centre.

To be fair, the statistical dearth of successful non-white candidates is something worth noticing, and even worrying about. Perhaps not so fervently as Globe and Mail Vancouver reporter Sunny Dhillon did, mind you. Owing to his bureau chief’s decision that the historic surfeit of women on Vancouver’s new city council was perhaps more newsworthy than the colour factor, Dhillon quit this week, quite publicly. Eight of the Vancouver’s 10 council members, as of the Oct. 20 elections, are women. This is, after all, quite a big deal.

The whiteness of recently elected municipal councils is being noticed right across Canada at the moment, though, and so it was helpful that the Institute for Research on Public Policy published a brief paper in its Policy Options journal this week, under the headline: “Elections in some of Canada’s most diverse cities still produced extremely homogenous councils. This threatens the legitimacy of their decisions.”

But just hold on a minute. If voters engage in a civic election, and the ethnic or racial diversity of the winners, in the aggregate, does not end up replicating the ethnic or racial diversity of the people who voted them into office, isn’t it a bit of a stretch to say the result “threatens the legitimacy of their decisions”?

Not a stretch at all, according to the article’s author, Erin Tolley. An assistant professor at the University of Toronto and “co-investigator” with the Canadian Municipal Election Study, a project of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Tolley writes: “All else being equal, we know that voters gravitate toward candidates with whom they share an ethnic or racial background.”

Maybe so. But “all things being equal” is a rather basket-sized caveat, and in any case, the examples she cites — recent elections in Vancouver, Mississauga, Ont., and Toronto — could be held up as evidence against her claim just as easily as Tolley cites them as evidence in favour of it. Voters in Vancouver, Mississauga and Toronto do not appear to have followed the pattern of ethnic gravitational pull at all.

British Columbia NDP MLA Leonard Krog is recorded as a reporter interviews him while awaiting the municipal election results for Nanaimo, B.C., on Oct. 20, 2018. Krog was elected mayor.

In Mississauga, 57 per cent of the voters identify as members of a “visible minority” but only one “racialized” councillor got elected. In a city where slightly more than half the people identify as members of “visible minority” groups, Toronto’s 25-member city council can boast only four people of colour. Statistics Canada’s recent data shows the same sort of ratio for Vancouver — slightly more than half of Vancouverites identify as members of “visible minority” groups.

So what’s with all the white people on city councils?

It’s a question worth asking, and although the answers are likely to differ from city to city, Tolley’s remedial prescription, an interim measure consisting of diversity and inclusion advisory committees to provide councils with advice about ethno-cultural relations and diversity, is perfectly reasonable, so far as it goes. An approach like that might also give “racialized” participants some public exposure, access to networks and degrees of civic exposure “that might serve them well if they choose to enter electoral politics,” Tolley writes.

But isn’t this just a bureaucratic solution in search of a problem? Does the ubiquity of white people in civic politics really mean “many voices are excluded from the decision-making process,” and that this state of affairs “puts municipalities at risk”?

In Vancouver, Kennedy Stewart, backed by Metro Vancouver’s labour unions, won the race for the mayor’s office only by squeaking past the Non-Partisan Association’s Ken Sim, who happens to be Chinese-Canadian. The result was 49,812 votes to Sim’s 48,828. Sim can hardly complain that he wasn’t taken seriously, so I asked three unsuccessful Vancouver civic candidates, people of colour, all with the outside-chance upstart ProVancouver slate, what they thought about all the fuss about whiteness.

Women cross the street at the intersection of East Pender Street and Gore Avenue in Vancouver on Dec. 5, 2016.

ProVancouver council candidate Rohana Rezel, born in Sri Lanka, had to put up with some nasty and widely publicized online racist harassment. “People from all ethnic communities came and rallied around me every time somebody tried to attack me. There was nothing that made me less privileged than other candidates, based on my ethnic background,” he said. “I just don’t buy the argument that white people just vote for white candidates.”

Rezel’s running mate, Raza Mirza, a Punjabi Muslim, said: “I just don’t understand this obsession with the idea that overall, council must look like the overall general population.” ProVancouver mayoral candidate David Chen, whose background is Taiwanese: “You have to be careful with that, or you’re going to risk forcing bad people into the system.”

All three said there are far bigger “process” issues that require attention. Like the abysmally low voter turnout. And Vancouver’s antiquated at-large voting system.

Source: Terry Glavin: There are more crucial issues than the colour of Vancouver’s council

Andy Yan, the analyst who exposed Vancouver’s real estate disaster: Terry Glavin

Nowadays he’s the director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, and while he’s too modest to boast about it, along the way he’s picked up a couple of exceedingly rare civic distinctions.

The first is the enduring enmity of all the politicians, real estate speculators, white-collar currency pirates and money launderers who have turned Vancouver into a global swindler’s paradise for real estate racketeering, a city that is now also one of the world’s most hopelessly pathetic urban landscapes of housing affordability. The second thing Yan has earned is an unfettered and unimpeachable right to say “I told you so.”

Three years ago, Yan was anxious to get a handle on the role foreign capital was playing in Vancouver’s weirdly convulsing real estate market. At the time, Yan’s main gig was his work as an urban planner with Bing Thom Architects, on contract as an urban planner. When Yan published the results of his research in November, 2015, it came as a shock, for two main reasons. It seemed to conclusively prove what everybody knew but nobody was supposed to say out loud. And it broke a taboo that was enforced so absurdly that Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson resorted to dismissing Yan’s research as racist.

Yan found that buyers with “non-Anglicised Chinese names” had picked up two-thirds of 172 houses sold over a six-month period beginning in September 2014 in Vancouver’s posh west side neighbourhoods. Contrary to public perception, however, the buyers weren’t just showing up with “bags of cash” to make their buys. Some of Canada’s biggest banks were in on it. Roughly 80 per cent of the deals involved a mortgage, and half of the mortgages were held by two banks – CIBC and HSBC.

Canada’s banks have mastered the manipulation of clandestine back channels around China’s currency control regulations—the same routes that well-connected Chinese multi-millionaires have been using to shift up to a trillion dollars’ worth of yuan out of China every year. What wasn’t clear about what was happening on Vancouver’ s west side, however, was who the real buyers were, exactly. The new homeowners’ most commonly stated occupation: housewife or homemaker.

Fast forward three years. The weirdness that Yan documented in Point Grey, Dunbar, Kerrisdale and Shaughnessy has rapidly spread southward and eastward, decoupling the bonds linking incomes with housing values across Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, all the way out to Surrey and White Rock on the Canada-U.S. border. Metro Vancouver’s real estate market is now a dystopian tableau of panic buying, tax fraud, property flipping, overseas pre-construction condominium sales, stone cold speculation and elaborate, multiple-account money transfer rigmaroles that are the conduit of choice for drug cartel tycoons. Not even the heaviest regulatory hands at the controls of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state seem capable of shutting the networks down.

It’s not just about shady Chinese money—not by a long shot. Vancouver’s old establishment property developers and real-estate companies fed the frenzies and made a killing. Along the way, they greased the skids by pouring buckets of money into Gregor Robertson’s now-dying Vision Vancouver civic party and Christy Clark’s Liberal Party. Robertson is now a sad figure, his legacy a shambles, his term up in October, and even his celebrated relationship with his glamorous girlfriend, the Chinese pop star Wanting Qu, fell apart last year. Qu’s mother, a Communist Party official in Harbin, remains on trial on charges of embezzling $70 million in a land swindle. Christy Clark is history, too. Her government was toppled last year by John Horgan’s New Democrats. With at least 60,000 Chinese immigrant investors sloshing their money around Metro Vancouver real estate over the past few years, federal politicians, too—Liberals, mainly—have been more than happy to rake it in at cash-for-access soirees and in generous donations to election campaign war chests.

In these ways, in Vancouver’s political circles, and in polite company, one simply didn’t mention the way the city’s housing market was being restructured to serve as an offshore investment bolthole for billions of dollars’ worth of shadow currency being spirited out of China, Iran, Russia and other such kleptocracies. But back in 2015, when the profoundly caucasian Mayor Robertson attempted to dismiss Yan’s findings—“I’m very concerned with the racist tones that are implied here,” Robertson said—it was a smear too far.

Yan’s great-grandfather was allowed into Canada only after being obliged to pay the infamously racist head tax Ottawa put in effect to keep out working-class Chinese immigrants. Students, merchants and diplomats were exempt. The head tax was in place until 1923. Yan wasn’t going to put up with Robertson’s backchat, and by that time, Vancouver’s ethnic Chinese community leaders had similarly lost their patience. White real estate moguls and politicians like Robertson persisted in proclaiming their anti-racist bona fides and purporting to be the champions of Vancouver’s Chinese community by shutting down public debates about the region’s housing catastrophe. Brandon Yan, a civic activist and volunteer on Vancouver’s planning commission, put it best: “Let’s leave it to the rich white dudes to decide what’s racist, right?”

Vancouver’s “condo king” Bob Rennie—a primary financial backer of Robertson’s NDP-tilting Vision Vancouver team and also the chief fundraiser for the NDP’s adversaries in Christy Clark’s Liberals—had cultivated a particularly brazen habit of it. “So you had these whispers about racism being used to shut down a dialogue about affordability and the kind of city we want to build here,” Andy Yan explained. “It’s a kind of moral signalling to camouflage immoral actions. It’s opportunism, and it’s a cover for the tremendous injustices that are emerging in the City of Vancouver and across the region. It’s a weird Vancouver thing. It’s very annoying. It’s kale in the smoothies or something.”

While the politicians and their friends in the property industry were making speeches about diversity and the importance of having sensitive feelings, foreign ownership grew to account for more than $45 billion dollars’ worth of Metro Vancouver residential property. Within Vancouver city limits, 7.6 per cent of all residential properties are now owned directly by individuals “whose principal residence is outside of Canada,” by the definition of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Roughly one in ten Vancouver condos are owned by non-residents. And that’s just the owners we know about.

Transparency International reckons that perhaps half of Vancouver’s most expensive properties are owned by shell companies or trusts, with the nominal owners commonly listed as student, housewife, or homemaker. Roughly 99 per cent of the single detached houses within Vancouver’s city limits are now valued in excess of $1 million. More than 20,000 Vancouver homes are vacant, year round. Vancouver’s rental vacancy rate is hovering just below one per cent.

“I’m always careful about using biomedical analogies,” Yan told me the other day, “but what was like a little skin ailment, if you will, over the last 10 or 15 years, has become a full fledged cancer.” Over just the past four years, throughout Metro Vancouver, homes worth $1 million or more have risen from 23 per cent of the housing market in 2014 to 73 per cent of the market now. Yan has been putting together a series of maps that show how the $1 million “red line” has been moving inexorably across the region, deep into the suburbs. “But what those maps don’t do is they don’t factor in transportation costs,” Yan said. “The top two expenditures of any Canadian household is shelter and transportation. God help you if you factor in child care. The whole map might as well be red. A number of factors have all come together to produce this catastrophic situation, but what was a small concentrated pattern in the west side of Vancouver has now metastasized to hit every single part of the region, and it’s similarly metastasized into the rest of the economy.”

As for where things are headed, Horgan’s NDP government has raised expectations, mainly because of Attorney-General David Eby’s avowed determination to chase dirty money out of Vancouver’s housing market and bust up the gangland playground B.C.’s provincially-licenced casinos have become—money laundered through casinos has also been pouring into residential property acquisitions. In Tuesday’s throne speech,  delivered by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, Horgan’s government directly addressed tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in the real estate market, hinting that a speculation tax is in the works. Next week, the New Democrats release their first full budget. The housing file, however, falls mainly to the more timid Carole James, former NDP leader and now deputy premier and finance minister. Preliminary indications aren’t particularly promising.

With short-term AirBnB rentals swallowing up long-term rental inventory, Yan was less than impressed with James’ solution, announced last week: short-term rental outfits will now pay the eight per cent provincial sales tax, and two or three per cent in municipal taxes. “That’s like taxing cigarettes to pay for lung cancer treatments,” Yan said.

Developing appropriately punitive taxes to discourage property-flipping and offshore pre-construction sales – those are obvious fixes. But knowing how to fix things requires a clear understanding of what’s wrong, Yan says, and closing the “bare trust loophole” that allows property owners to hide their holdings is a must-do. Ontario closed the loophole back in the 1980s. Clark’s Liberals promised to close it, but they never did.

In the meantime, Yan is focusing on converting hidden-away data into publicly comprehensible information. Some key information Yan has drawn from a trove recently released by Statistics Canada’s Canadian Housing Statistics Program, for instance, shows that simply building more condominiums won’t do. A condo building boom in Metro Vancouver has kept the property developers happy, but there’s no evidence that the boost in supply has lessened demand or beaten back prices. Nearly one in five condos built in Vancouver since 2016 were snapped up by non-residents.

To a certain extent, there’s nothing new here,” Yan said, pointing to the Guinness family’s financing of the Lion’s Gate Bridge in the 1920s, and the opening up of the British Properties on Burrard Inlet’s north shore. “But what is new is the hyper-commodification of residential real estate, mixed in with an intensification of global flows of people and capital. It’s just a statement in fact. We’re talking about the globalization of the Chinese economy and its impacts.”

Yan says there may be some solution—a mix of remedies, new laws, purpose-built rental housing, tax adjustments and so on—that does not mean a collapse in Metro Vancouver’s real estate prices. Channelling foreign investment in such a way as to serve the public interest might be possible. “But whether this comes out as a bubble-popping isn’t the point. That’s a secondary concern to the kind of society we want to build. “We need to go back to civic virtues.

“We need to talk about the sacrifices we are willing and we need to make for the greater good of the community. We need to have a discussion about what the public good is, and what we are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.”

Source: Andy Yan, the analyst who exposed Vancouver’s real estate disaster

Are white Canadians becoming conscious of their whiteness? – Terry Glavin

Good long read by Glavin.

While the survey results are interesting, how the questions are posed changes the response. Statistics Canada has grappled over the years with how to formulate its ethnic origin question, with the current version being: “What were the ethnic or cultural origins of this person’s ancestors?” with the following examples and clarification provided:

An ancestor is usually more distant than a grandparent [ordered by frequency of last Census/NHS].

For example, Canadian, English, Chinese, French, East Indian, Italian, German, Scottish, Cree, Mi’kmaq, Salish, Métis, Inuit, Filipino, Irish, Dutch, Ukrainian, Polish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Korean, Jamaican, Greek, Iranian, Lebanese, Mexican, Somali, Colombian, etc.

The “race” question is the visible minority one, where Glavin is correct that non-visible minorities are by definition white (and very useful in comparing outcomes by minority groups and the “white” majority (which of course are composed of a variety of European ancestries). So in practice, the Census allows people to identify themselves within the majority European origins (the earlier waves of immigrants) and visible minority origins (the last 40 years or so).

Both ethnic ancestry and visible minority can be used to indicate variation in economic and social outcomes (e.g., those of South European ethnic origin have poorer economic outcomes than North European origins).

But his fundamental questions regarding a strengthening “white” identity and its implications are worthy as is his point that debating over terminology (e.g., visible minority, people of colour, radicalized communities) will not address underlying inequality issues (and may, IMO, divert attention to these more substantive issues):

In a McAllister Opinion Research survey of Americans and Canadians carried out this month, Americans are twice as willing—41 per cent of them—to identify “white” as their ethnicity. If you include the response “Caucasian,” a peculiar 18th Century term that also means “white,” the proportion of Americans who identify their ethnicity by these terms rises to 54 per cent (the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that “Non Hispanic whites” made up 64 per cent of the American population in 2010).

In the McAllister survey, only 20 per cent of Canadians identified “white” as their ethnicity, and if you add in “Caucasian,” only 30 per cent of us identify in that way. Contrast that with Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, which identifies 80 per cent of us as white people (more precisely, StatsCan identified 26,587,570 of Canada’s 32,852,325 non-Indigenous people as “Not a Visible Minority”).

So where did all the white people go?

“It is weird,” Angus McAllister, the survey firm’s director, told me. “What it shows for sure is that Americans are way more obsessed with race than Canadians are.”

The McAllister survey was undertaken from August 13 to August 20—the immediate aftermath of the white-supremacist outrage in Charlottesville, Virginia. The ugly spectacle of marching Nazis and hooded Ku Klux Klansmen sent a great many Americans into paroxysms of alarm. Their despair was compounded by the gleeful allegiance the worst of Charlottesville’s racists pledged to President Trump, and by Trump giving every impression of being content with it. Canadians responded in unanimous revulsion.

McAllister polled a sample of 1,025 Canadians, leaving an error margin of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The American sample of 835 Americans falls within an error margin of plus of minus 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

A couple of other points: McAllister, 56, is a good friend. He’s also Japanese, or “mixed,” or whatever the circumstances demand of him, as he puts it. He’s no stranger to the nuances and ambiguities that tend to get papered over in fashionable uproars about race and identity.

What worries McAllister is something in the survey results’ granular details that is only hinted at in copycat Canadian iterations of far-right American pseudo-journalism, and in the mimicry at work in transgressive Canadian school-renaming and statue-toppling shouting matches. Over time, we’re becoming more like Americans. Or at least some of us are.

Older, well-educated Canadian respondents in McAllister’s survey were the least likely to claim “white” as an ethnic identity. Among Canadians older than 65 with only a university education, only eight per cent identified as white. Among Canadians in that same age bracket with only a high school education, 28 per cent identified as white.

Among Canadians under the age of 45 with a university education, 19 per cent identified as white—the national average. Among Canadians in that age group with only a high school education, 38 per cent claimed a white ethnicity —a proportion that tracks closest to the overall American average.

It’s not as though there’s a large bloc of Canadians who are becoming racists, McAllister cautions. The pull of the American cultural orbit and the mania for “identity politics” have a lot to do with it. An overweening preoccupation with race and ethnicity as identity markers can only exacerbate an unhealthy trend that over time will inevitably expand the number of Canadians who identify as “white.”

Before we were Canadians, the colonial settlers of British North America were British and French. “White” only rarely came into the conversation, and the emancipation of “multiculturalism” allowed the rest of us to find a way to identify with the Canadian mainstream.

We all became used to identifying ourselves as “hyphenated” Canadians, or just Canadians. But unlike people lumped into the Visible Minority category, European immigrants lose their hyphenated old-country identities more easily as each generation supplants its predecessor. Eventually, people who fall within Statistics Canada’s cumbersome Not a Visible Minority category are gradually left with only “white” as an ethnic identity.

In the United States, where “whiteness” makes most sense in the context of slavery, the generational pattern appears to have stalled. To be “white” in America – a political category that began mainly with Englishmen and gradually enveloped other groups, like the Irish, the Italians and the Jews – is to be “not Black.” It is to perpetually hover above the status of the slave, sometimes to the point of perpetuating black slavery by other means.

Among McAllister’s American survey respondents under the age of 45, roughly 45 per cent identified themselves as white. Among Americans 45 years old or older, 60 per cent identified as white.

North of the border, Statistics Canada’s awkward Not a Visible Minority Category works well enough as a signifier for people with comparatively pale complexions, but practically nothing else. It unhelpfully tends to associate “white” privileges and advantages with people whose only commonality is low skin pigmentation.

In small-town Canada, for instance, second and third-generation “white” boys tend to education and income levels far below the prospects for urban, first-generation immigrants in the Visible Minority category. Those rural white boys will all tend to enter the Canadian group in McAllister’s survey who are most likely to identify their ethnicity as “white.”

Even more absurdly, the Not a Visible Minority category is the just the flipside of a classification the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers to be quite possibly racist. Intended to protect and advance disadvantaged ethnic and racial minorities along with women, Indigenous people and disabled people, it isn’t working out that way.

For one thing, the term Visible Minority “seemed to somehow indicate that ‘whiteness’ was the standard, all others differing from that being visible,” as the UN Committee’s Patrick Thornbury puts it. For another, the category’s sweeping imprecision is liable to erect more systemic barriers against genuinely marginalized minority groups.

Canadians who have been getting shoehorned into Visible Minority status since the 1980s are by no means uniformly disadvantaged. They never were. East Asians tend towards income and education levels that exceed the Canadian average, for instance, while African-Canadian men face severe disadvantages and marginalization across the board.

The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination first pointed out these contradictions in an assessment of Canada’s Employment Equity Act a decade ago. In the attempt to bring Canada in line with the UN Committee’s criticisms, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government worked itself into a tizzy of professor-quizzing, workshop-convening and province-consulting, but ended up deciding to leave things as they were. It’s only now that Ottawa is revisiting the matter.

Statistics Canada is taking a lead role in the effort, examining ways to disaggregate data on visible-minority equality indicators like employment rates and income levels. This is long overdue, and mimicking the American custom by simply amending the nomenclature from “visible minority” to “people of colour” or “racialized communities” won’t do.

Over the past decade, in the language of common speech, the term “Indigenous” has almost thoroughly displaced “Aboriginal” to describe Canada’s constitutionally-described Indians, Metis and Inuit peoples. But these same peoples continue to suffer the most vicious extremes of poverty, outrageously high incarceration rates, the most disgraceful levels child suicide, joblessness, and drug and alcohol addiction.

Thinking and speaking more carefully about racism is vital to the purposes of basic civic hygiene in Canada. Mimicking the most dysfunctional American cultural habits will not heal any wounds, and neither will flattering ourselves with proverbs about the strengths to be found in diversity. Being “white,” out of either pride or shame, either as a boast or as a confession, will only wound us all.

Source: Are white Canadians becoming conscious of their whiteness? – Macleans.ca

Canada supports a ‘values’ test. But not the values of the far right. – Terry Glavin

Glavin’s take on the Macleans’ poll and what it says about Canadian values:

It is a delicious paradox and it’s wholly counterintuitive. What’s one of the strongest feelings expressed by the otherwise liberal, laid-back and largely contented people revealed by our poll? It’s in the survey respondents’ support for a proposition most closely associated, fairly or not, with Canada’s disgruntled, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic fringe.

A whopping 84 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement, “New immigrants to Canada should be screened to ensure they share Canadian values.” Almost 50 per cent “strongly” agreed. That’s a higher register of strong feeling than the survey elicited in any other policy-related question.

Peculiar to the far-right edges of the Conservative party, the specific proposal to subject prospective immigrants to a “Canadian values” assessment in face-to-face interviews was a major plank in party leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s campaign. Opposed by several other candidates and derided by Liberals and New Democrats as a dog whistle to bigots, Canadians, it would seem, are for it, with gusto. Only five per cent of survey respondents “strongly” disagreed with the proposition. That’s a slam dunk.

But here’s the paradox: It turns out that the “Canadian values” revealed in our poll are dramatically at odds with the values espoused by the loudest proponents of an immigrant “values” test. In other words, Canada’s rednecks should be careful what they wish for.

Almost all of the 17 primary values questions put to poll respondents elicited enthusiasm in varying degrees for “progressive” values and ambivalence about almost everything else. If it’s “Canadian values” you want embraced by the roughly 300,000 people who emigrate to Canada every year, you’ll have to screen out almost everybody except for liberals.

Source: Canada supports a ‘values’ test. But not the values of the far right. – Macleans.ca