‘Conservatives are losing traction in ethnic communities:’ Will their leadership race make it even worse?

Likely premature call.

As we know, voters in the 905 have flipped between Conservatives and Liberals, and Doug Ford won most of these ridings in 2018 and 2022.

And during the recent leadership debates, there was remarkable consensus in favour of immigration and no opposition to the current government’s ongoing increase in immigration levels:

Cyma Musarat still remembers being accused of having lost her mind when she ran for the federal Conservatives in 2019.

As a Muslim woman, she was asked time and time again how she could cast her lot with a party that promoted policies condemned as racist.

In her riding of Pickering-Uxbridge, it was a particularly sensitive topic — during the 2015 election campaign, the Tories held an event in a pocket of the riding where they promised a so-called “barbaric cultural practices” tip line for people to report on their neighbours.

The tip line proposal and support for a ban on face coverings during citizenship ceremonies were seen as key contributors to the party’s defeat in the election.

And not just that year.

The policies effectively bombed the bridges the party had built with ethnic communities, and the issues surfaced in the 2019 and 2021 campaigns as the Tories failed to make the gains in urban centres.

What it will take for the Tories to win the next election is the question at the heart of the party’s current leadership race.

But how ethnic communities factor into the equation is a point of contention, and an issue not being debated enough, some say.

So far, the race has not seen debate over social issues like systemic racism or inequality, or even how the party can and must embrace equity and inclusion internally, said long time political activist Sukhi Sandu, who backed the Tories in the last federal campaign.

“The Conservatives are losing traction in ethnic communities, and they seem not to understand the issues that pertain to those racialized groups,” Sandu said in an interview from Boston, where he’s working towards a master’s degree in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Musarat believes the party must first acknowledge these issues exist, then move beyond a process of just checking off boxes.

For her, that’s why Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown’s leadership bid is so appealing.

“He openly says that Islamophobia exists,” she said. “That’s where the journey starts. That’s where the change will start: acknowledge the problem. Once you’ve acknowledged it, and then you find a solution to fix it.”

Brown built his leadership bid on his outspoken opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans people in positions of public authority in that province from wearing religious symbols, like turbans or hijabs, at their workplaces.

He went on to promise a multi-faith, multicultural coalition that would restore trust between the Tories and ethnic communities.

While signing up what his campaign says are 150,000 new party members, Brown has made specific promises to different ethnic groups.

In turn, he has been accused of playing diaspora politics — an accusation his backers say is proof most candidates aren’t willing to do the hard work of sitting down with voters to listen to their specific concerns and address them.

“People have this misconception that someone stands up at the front door on stage and says, ‘We’re all gonna support Patrick,’ and, you know, 50,000 people sign up for the man,” said Jaskaran Sandu, a volunteer on the Brown campaign.

“That’s not how it works. It’s painstaking, person-to-person relationship building that only works if there is sincerity and a track record.”

Brown has also been unsparing in his attacks on rival Pierre Poilievre, challenging the Conservative MP for remaining silent when the Tory government introduced the niqab ban and proposed the tip line.

Poilievre’s campaign co-chair Tim Uppal has apologized for not personally pushing back against those policies when he was an MP — and minister of state of multiculturalism.

Uppal said he had no concerns that the candidates’ positions on tackling racism aren’t getting a broad airing on the campaign trail. An issue like that only gets debated if there’s a flashpoint which prompts it, he said.

He said while Brown is recruiting in diverse communities, so too is Poilievre, citing a recent speech to a packed mosque, among others.

“What I’ve talked to people a lot about is that they’re being included because of issues that are important to them, which is taxes and other issues that affect all Canadians,” he said.

Leslyn Lewis, a Black woman making her second run for the Conservative leadership, did not respond to questions from the Star about how she views the future of the party’s relationship with ethnic communities.

Vonny Sweetland is working on Jean Charest’s leadership bid, a decision based on the depth of the former Quebec premier’s experience — and his willingness to bring people like Sweetland onto his team.

The leader sets the tone, said Sweetland, who is Black, and Charest’s is inclusive and progressive.

But both Sweetland and Sandhu said they have concerns about what will happen to the party if the populist elements that appear to be playing a major role in this race ultimately triumph.

Sandhu pointed to the tension between members recruited with a promise the Conservatives will embrace diversity and those brought in over concerns about global institutions like the World Economic Forum, around which conspiracy theories with racist undertones persist.

“Why do you expect us to be involved or continue if that’s the type of rhetoric that’s going to be included back into the party?” he said of those recruited by Brown.

“That doesn’t actually solve the issue — it goes back to the basis of the problem, which is that the Conservative party is not ready to look in the mirror and evolve and realize why it falls short in places like the 905.”

Sweetland said while he’s planning to give the new leader is some runaway, whoever it is, there is anxiety among other Black conservatives.

“I’ve seen, people, particularly people of colour, feel that this is not only a leadership race — and I’m sure you’ve heard this quote, it’s not mine, but I agree with it — that this is the battle for the soul of our party,” he said.

“And many people of colour feel that way.”

Source: ‘Conservatives are losing traction in ethnic communities:’ Will their leadership race make it even worse?

UN Compact needs a substantive discussion, says ex-Harper aide

Interesting the focus on the Global Compact but I understand that the panel’s discussion was more wide ranging. It is hard to argue against more discussion and debate over any issue, including the Global Compact (although I find the fears overblown).

However, the question arises whether a more open discussion of the Global Compact in the Citizenship and Immigration committee have assuaged fears over its actual and potential impact and altered some of the political posturing (virtue signalling) on both sides or not:

Canada needs to have a substantive policy debate about the UN Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and how it will influence domestic law, said Rachel Curran, former Harper-era staffer, at a panel discussing Canada’s immigration policy.

Speaking at the Manning Networking Conference on Sunday, Ms. Curran recalled that, last year, when the Trudeau government announced it would sign the first-of-its-kind compact on migration, there was immediate backlash from the other side.

There’s been a lot of rhetoric, but not enough policy analysis, she said, attributing the lack of substantive debate prior to its adoption to the Trudeau government. “[It] does Canadians a real disservice,” Ms. Curran, who served as then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s director of policy, said in a post-panel interview.

When asked why the Conservative party itself hasn’t had the policy conversation, Ms. Curran said she doesn’t think political parties have the appropriate resources to do a detailed policy analysis.

“When a party is in opposition, in particular, its capacity to do policy work and policy analysis is eroded quite significantly,” she said.

She would like to see the Opposition Leader’s Office and the Conservative Party to do some more digging, but the primary responsibility lies with the government, she said, as it has more resources.

“The opposition party, its primary role is to oppose the government, right? They don’t have a policy shop, or a host of policy analysts or experts who are on call to answer those questions,” she said after the panel.

Ms. Curran spoke alongside Tim Uppal, a former Harper-era minister of state for democratic reform, and later multiculturalism, and Eric Duhaime, Quebec radio host and commentator. The panel, centred on a discussion about Canada’s immigration and refugee policies, including the arrival of irregular migrants and the contention that conservatives are anti-immigration, was moderated by Andrew Lawton, an unsuccessful Progressive Conservative candidate in last year’s Ontario elections. The annual Manning conference is organized by the Manning Centre, headed by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, and brings together conservatives to discuss and debate political issues.

The rhetoric around the UN migration compact has deemed those opposed to it as racist, said Ms. Curran, and given that Conservatives won’t want to talk about “issues around racism for the entire campaign,” they probably won’t bring it up.

“But again, that does a real disservice to Canadians who want to know what’s in it,” she said.

In response to a question about how Canada should address the UN Global Compact, Ms. Curran said during the panel that the point of these international agreements is to influence international law, and eventually, domestic policy. Canada should figure out, for example, if it would have an impact on how it responds to the issue of irregular migrants from the U.S.

“There’s never been really, I think, a truly honest and detailed discussion about what’s in the compact and how it’s intended to influence our domestic law over time,” she said.

The compact is not a legally binding document and is grounded in state sovereignty, responsibility sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights. It aims to foster a collaborative approach among the 160 signatory nations in their response to the leveraging the benefits of migration and addressing the challenges. While Canada was among the 160 countries that signed the agreement in December, the U.S did not.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) opposed the signing in December, saying it would give foreign entities influence over Canada’s migration system and would erode nations’ sovereignty. “We don’t need a global compact that binds Canada to provisions that are agreed to at the United Nations. We can do that already. … By signing onto this compact, our sovereignty to make those decisions ourselves will be eroded,” Mr. Scheer told reporters in December. Mr. Scheer’s statement on the issue drew criticism from Chris Alexander, an ex-Harper minister of immigration, who said that the compact is “not a legally binding treaty” and that has “no impact on our sovereignty.”

Some demonstrators in the United We Roll rally also expressed their opposition to the compact. Mr. Scheer netted further criticism for speaking at the rally, which was attended by Faith Goldy, a white supremacist and former Rebel Media personality.

Mr. Uppal agreed during the panel with Ms. Curran’s suggestion that it sets a direction, and added he’s happy that Mr. Scheer opposed its signing.

Mr. Duhaime, for his part, said during the panel that, Canada needs to close its borders in all places other than designated ports of entry.

“We cannot welcome people by asking them to break the law,” he said, adding the government should negotiate with Washington so that, no matter what, no one can cross at non-official points of entry.

All three panellists said they supported a fair, compassionate, and orderly migration system, suggesting that anti-immigrant rhetoric gains traction only when the file is mishandled by the government, but there is still strong support for immigration in Canada. Canada takes in about 300,000 immigrants annually, but the numbers are expected to rise to 340,000 by 2021.

Irregular migration issue also discussed

On the issue of irregular migration, the three panellists said the Liberal government has failed to get a handle on it.

Policy decisions by U.S. President Donald Trump have led refugee claimants in the U.S. to seek refugee status in Canada in fear that their claims will be denied. Under the Third Safety Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S., those who cross at official ports of entry in Canada from will be forced to turn back. That has led refugee claimants to cross the border at non-designated entry points, where they are apprehended by the RCMP, and are able to file their claims.

International refugee agreements mean the government must allow those on Canadian soil to make claims, regardless of how they got across the border.

Quebec and Manitoba, in particular, have had to contend with the arrival of refugee claimants more so than other provinces, according to numbers from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. In 2017, there were 20,593 RCMP interceptions that resulted in asylum claims. About 18,000 were in Quebec, while about 1,000 were in Manitoba. In 2018, that total number dropped to 19,419 claims, with roughly 18,500 in Quebec,  and some 400 in Manitoba.

So far this calendar year, the RCMP has intercepted 1,696 refugee claimants, with about 1,670 in Quebec and two in Manitoba.

The Liberals have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the issue since early 2017. Budget 2019 budget proposed another $1.18-billion over five years, with the aim of strengthening the border. Some $55-million for year after was proposed.

“In recent years, elevated numbers of asylum seekers, including those that have crossed into Canada irregularly, have challenged the fairness and effectiveness of Canada’s asylum system,” according to the budget.

Some $450-million of the money is earmarked for the Immigration Canada, while $382-million will go to Canada Border Services Agency, and $208-million is for the Immigration and Refugee Board, which reviews claims.s

Mr. Duhaime said the current backlog of claims is unsustainable and is “going nowhere,” and a new government should better secure the borders.

“It’s not fair for those people; it’s not fair for those who entered legally; and it’s not fair for taxpayers,” he said.

Refugee advocates have disputed the notion that there’s a queue for making a refugee claim.

Ms. Curran said that a new government should work with other countries to stop the flow in the first place, but also to work at speeding up the claims process. The hearings  can take years and are likely to be appealed.

People know how long the process takes and use it to their advantage, Ms. Curran said, so speeding up the process could create a disincentive for those trying to game the system.

Source: UN Compact needs a substantive discussion, says ex-Harper aide

Sikh MP Tim Uppal says there is ‘so much we can learn’ from the Holocaust

Interesting profile on Uppal’s interest and connection to Holocaust awareness and remembrance, and says something about Canadian multiculturalism to have a Sikh Canadian lead the Canadian delegation:

Holocaust remembrance is not a faith-based cause, Mr. Uppal said.

“I was doing something as a Canadian, this is something that affects us all,” he said.

“It wasn’t because of anything of my own faith, but this is something that I felt was important to us all as Canadians.”

‘This is something that affects us all’

Mr. Uppal has become a fixture on the Jewish community lecture circuit, addressing crowds ranging from the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee to groups of teens about to depart on March of the Living trips.

He said he hopes to one day expose his own children, now six, four and two, to the story of what happened to the 11 million people who fell victim to the Nazi government’s racist policies.

“It’s so important that we pass on this history to future generations,” he said.

For Mr. Uppal, the issue of racism also hits closer to home.

Sikh MP Tim Uppal says there is ‘so much we can learn’ from the Holocaust

Tim Uppal, Multiculturalism Minister, Victim Of Racist Incident

Good that Uppal, Minister of State for Multiculturalism, was public about it.

StatsCan report on police-reported hate crimes doesn’t capture these kinds of incidents (Chart of the Day: Hate crimes – Five-Year Trends):

Uppal’s parents immigrated to Canada from India before he was born. He suggested to the Sherwood Park News last July that his personal background made him uniquely suited to the multiculturalism file.

“Growing up, I’ve had this opportunity to live this life of having a culture that I’m very proud of and [I] get to practice that culture, but at the same time being a Canadian kid. Playing ice hockey, and watching normal western movies and that type of thing,” he told the paper.

“I think all of that will help contribute to my new role.”Uppal, who always sports a bright, Tory-blue turban, also spoke out in the House of Commons last year about the proposed Quebec Charter of Values put forward by the former Parti Quebecois government of Pauline Marois. The controversial bill sought to ban public workers in the province from wearing “overt” religious symbols, including Sikh turbans, Muslim headscarves and Jewish kippas.

“My parents were welcomed when they immigrated to Canada, and now I have three beautiful Canada-born children,” he said.

“We are a proud Canadian family. A Canadian is no less a Canadian because they wear a cross, a kippa, Star of David or a turban.”

Tim Uppal, Multiculturalism Minister, Victim Of Racist Incident.

Tories focus on ethnic outreach with multiple multiculturalism ministers | hilltimes.com

Reasonably good analysis in The Hill Times on the various roles of ministers on multiculturalism. I expect that statutory responsibilities will be met by Minister Alexander but only after vetted by Minister Kenney’s office. It will be interesting to see who signs the Annual Multiculturalism Report – may end up being joint-signature to underline the senior political minister role played by Minister Kenney.

Tories focus on ethnic outreach with multiple multiculturalism ministers | hilltimes.com.

And then there were 2… multiculturalism ministers on the cabinet roster – Inside Politics

More from Kady O’Malley on her series ‘would the real Minister for Multiculturalism please stand up’. I think in practice it will be less confusing for outside observers as Minister Kenney will be the main public face of multiculturalism and is clearly the senior political minister. Officials will adjust as they must, the focus of the program will be political, given the importance of ethnic communities as the ‘fourth sister’ of electoral strategies.

Not elegant from a machinery of government perspective but a totally understandable and rational, from a political perspective decision (even if the former official in me groans about what it means for the long-term health of the multiculturalism program).

And then there were 2… multiculturalism ministers on the cabinet roster – Inside Politics.

Cabinet orders add to confusion over Canada’s multiple multiculturalism ministers – Inside Politics

More on the ‘who is in charge’ question re multiculturalism between Minister Kenney, Alexander and Minister of State Uppal.

Cabinet orders add to confusion over Canada’s multiple multiculturalism ministers – Inside Politics.

Will Canada’s lead multiculturalism minister please stand up? – Inside Politics

Good post by Kady O’Malley who is the real Minister of Multiculturalism, Chris Alexander, who has the departmental role, Jason Kenney who has the political outreach role, or Tim Uppal, the Minister of State for Multiculturalism? No brainer, political outreach role trumps.

Will Canada’s lead multiculturalism minister please stand up? – Inside Politics.

Jason Kenney to maintain hold on ethnic file despite move to jobs portfolio | canada.com

More comments on the understandable decision to keep Jason Kenney responsible for the multiculturalism file, although it does mean a further diminishing of the multicultural program when the political and bureaucratic roles are divided between Ministers and departments.

Jason Kenney to maintain hold on ethnic file despite move to jobs portfolio | canada.com.