By: Marieke Walsh in Ottawa, ON
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was repeatedly under attack and on the defensive Wednesday night during a debate on issues facing the black community.
The debate in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood featured all major party leaders except Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford.
Wynne was taken to task for her government’s record on disproportionate numbers of black children facing suspension and expulsion, inequities in the health care system and the persistence of carding by police.
Throughout, the premier stuck to her talking points that the Liberal government has taken these issues “head on” and that “more needs to be done.”
At one point moderator Royson James called Wynne out for her response to systemic racism in the education system.
“You do know that whatever you’re doing isn’t working,” James asked Wynne. And he wondered if the people responsible for the school system understand the “urgency.”
His follow-up was met with laughs and a shout of “clueless” from someone in the crowd of roughly 200 people.
“I get that there’s a huge frustration and I feel that frustration,” Wynne said.
At which point NDP Leader Andrea Horwath broke in with “15 years” — referencing the Liberal’s time in power.
James had previously listed several statistics pointing to the experience of black children in the Toronto District School Board in 2011.
Calling them “crushing statistics” he said the stats show almost half of the black students who graduate high school don’t have the credits and grades needed to go to university and 42 per cent didn’t apply to post secondary school. Moreover he said, of those students that apply, only one in four are accepted.
Of every 100 black students only 69 graduate, James said. Out of that number, he said only 18 end up in university or college.
He said the numbers are “worse” for boys, adding that half of the students expelled from school are black kids. “What do you plan to do about this abject failure of our schools to educate black students,” James asked the three leaders.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the “first thing you have to do is admit that there’s a problem.”
“These stats aren’t new,” Horwath said. “I’d suggest that it’s getting worse and not better.” She said the government should deal with the curriculum in schools and ensure supports are there for students.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the statistics show how much the “status quo is failing our young people.”
Meanwhile, Wynne defended her government’s record on implementing items like the Black Youth Action Plan and the Education Equity Action Plan while agreeing that more needs to be done.
“There is absolutely no doubt that there is more structural change that’s needed,” Wynne said.
Wynne got the loudest applause when she was first introduced at the event but it went downhill from there — she was at times jeered, challenged and interrupted by the crowd.
Speaking to reporters after the debate, she said the issues debated “are not simple” nor “easily dealt with.”
“What I was saying was that we have been tackling them, we have been addressing them and yes there is still more to be done,” Wynne said.
Horwath, who got a warm reception from the crowd by the end of the night, called the debate “very enjoyable.”
The Elephant not in the Room
Ford’s absence wasn’t addressed very much by the leaders during the debate, but was met with boos from the crowd when the event organizers noted his absence.
Speaking to iPolitics afterward, several audience members said his absence would hurt Ford, while another said he would still hear out the ideas put forward from the Progressive Conservatives.
Earlier in the day Wynne issued a letter challenging Ford to three debates, saying he hasn’t yet agreed to a single one ahead of the June election.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Wynne said Ford is “the one person who wouldn’t have agreed with anything that we were saying and he wasn’t there to put his position forward.”
“It is really important that he show up and that he put his opinions forward because people need to understand what that contrast is,” she said.
Ford was in Northern Ontario on a campaign-style tour.
Horwath questioned Ford’s priorities and said the “community was pretty disappointed” by his absence.
Republished under arrangement with iPolitics.
By: Janice Dickson in Ottawa, ON
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to help Iranians who have reported painfully long wait times to become permanent residents.
“I am writing about public reports of systemic discrimination by Canada against Iranians, both residents here and overseas,” said Michael Bryant, the CCLA’s executive director in the letter to Hussen on April 6.
“We will work with the Iranian community to marshal the legal effort to investigate and remedy any discrimination. We urge your Ministry to announce immediate remedial steps to assure Iranians that Canada takes these allegations very seriously,” said Bryant.
According to the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC), more than 200 Iranian nationals, who are students or recent graduates in Canada, have reported long waits to become permanent residents.
The Iranians believe they are being treated unfairly and have taken to Twitter using the #DelayedIranianApplications hashtag to share their stories.
Bryant wrote that the ICC told him Hussen has not agreed to meet personally with their organization, but that a meeting with officials has been scheduled.
Hursh Jaswal, a spokesman for Hussen said security checks have no set processing time and they will vary as they are done case by case.
“The CBSA performs background checks on all visitors, immigrants and refugee claimants of 18 years of age or over to ensure that inadmissible person — such as criminals or persons considered security risks — are not allowed to enter or remain in Canada,” he said in an email.
Jaswal said the department understands the “frustration” of applicants and their loved ones, but thorough security screening of all applicants is important to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.
“BSA and the Government of Canada are committed to a fair and non-discriminatory application of immigration procedures while protecting the safety and security of Canadians,” he said.
The processing time currently listed for Quebec skilled workers, for example, is 15 months, said Jaswal, that figure represents the time it takes IRCC to process 80 per cent of applications, which means that 20 per cent of applications have taken longer than that.
Republished under arrangement with iPolitics.
By: Kasi Rao in Toronto, ON
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s arrival in New Delhi on February 17 for a week-long state visit marks the 12th visit by a member of his cabinet to India, and given his position, the most important one.
The significance of Trudeau’s visit is clear — India matters to Canada, as a friend and a trading partner with still-unrealized potential at a time when Canada seeks to broaden and deepen its international markets.
Canada and India have been talking for a while about reaching more comprehensive trade and investment agreements. But the real significance of this visit is already comprehensive — there’s a positive shift in our relationship that we’re ready to build on together.
The building blocks are there. Two-way trade between Canada and India was nearly $8 billion in 2016, even though there have been setbacks and slow progress in formal trade talks.
We do that amount of two-way trade with the United States every four days. But when it comes to Canada-India trade, the modesty of the numbers is a reflection of the past, not the promise of the future.
The obstacles are obvious too. Late last year, Indian government officials slapped an increased tariff on pulses — the little yellow peas that are a staple in South Asia, which Canadian farmers export to India.
Yet we have common ground. Canada is the biggest contributor of pulses to India, and India benefits when our supply is not constricted by tariffs.
There’s no substitute for a meeting between two leaders to reach a better understanding and make it easier to trade commodities.
Canada and India have been negotiating those free trade and investments agreements for some time now — and they may well take longer. That doesn’t negate the need for a sustained engagement with India across multiple sectors.
This visit is an opportunity — to find more common ground. The elements for stronger trade, business and investment relationships between Canada and India are apparent in the number of sectors that are robust and growing yet still relatively untapped.
There are huge opportunities to expand in tourism, research and skills, medical science, technology and innovation.
Some trading partners in the world lament a brain drain, where talented people leave. Between Canada and India it’s a brain chain, where the best and brightest in both countries complement and bolster each others’ achievements.
For example, Canada is one of the most welcoming countries, reflected in our increased immigration targets at a time when others in the G7 are cutting back.
More than a million Canadians trace their roots to India; they provide a natural bridge to newcomers. Canada has increasing potential as a magnet for higher education among promising Indian students, which contributes to research and innovation in both countries.
Canadians and Indians also share many similar attitudes and values in their outlook to solving global problems. On the economic front, Indian states now embrace cooperative and competitive federalism, marketing themselves internationally the way our provinces do.
Canadians and Indians also share many values when it comes to pluralism and diversity, and both countries are in sync on combatting climate change and the Paris Accord.
Public institutions in both countries have legitimacy in ways that either don’t exist in other places or are under severe strain.
Global studies such as the Pew Global Survey and 2018 Edelman Public Trust Barometer show that Canada and India rank consistently high in the public’s trust of institutions.
The strong Canadian team led by Prime Minister Trudeau, who is accompanied by senior Cabinet ministers, demonstrates Canada’s commitment to a wider and deeper relationship with India.
The Canadian brand is a compelling one that resonates with India. There is nothing like a prime ministerial visit — it provides an extraordinary platform to demonstrate the breadth and depth of our engagement.
Kasi Rao is President and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC). Republished under arrangement with iPolitics.
Commentary by: Don Curry in North Bay, Ontario
Don’t buy Vic Fedeli a yellow tie. He has dozens of them.
That’s his signature trademark, but he is just as well known for his intellect, knack for getting things done, workaholic tendencies, a big smile and a handshake for everyone who crosses his path.
Now interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the 61-year-old aims to be the permanent leader after a leadership convention that has to be held before the end of March to give the party time to campaign before the June provincial election. Underestimate his chances at your peril.
But what does the Nipissing MPP and former mayor of North Bay know about immigration? Quite a bit, actually.
Of Italian immigrant stock and a big supporter of the city’s Davedi Club, as mayor he saw immigration as a key to the future well-being of the city. Northern Ontario has faced youth out-migration, baby boomer retirements and a declining birth rate and does not have an immigration strategy.
Fedeli identified the local need as mayor in his first term starting in 2003 when he tasked the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development with getting the city involved in attracting and retaining immigrants. The North Bay Newcomer Network, a Local Immigration Partnership, was formed and it later led to the establishment of an immigrant support agency, the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, in 2008.
Full disclosure, I have known him for almost 40 years. He formed Fedeli Advertising in 1978, the same year I moved to the city to teach journalism at Canadore College. I interviewed him in the early 1980s for a feature article for Northern Ontario Business magazine and our paths have crossed many times since. I would describe him as conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on social issues.
I was part of a delegation from the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) that met with him in his Queen’s Park office to brief him on provincial immigration issues. My OCASI colleagues, perhaps anticipating some pushback from a Conservative, were impressed with his knowledge. I have met with him in his North Bay constituency office to discuss local and regional immigration issues and see that he always does his homework to prepare for the meeting.
I played golf with him at a fundraiser for the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre. I drove the cart and he worked his smart phone to stay in touch with provincial issues. Although we are members of the same golf club, he rarely plays, as his workaholic tendencies continue through the summer. We tried our hands at cricket together with the local cricket club. Club members stifled their laughter.
Fedeli ran for the party’s leadership in 2015 and bowed out of the race to support Christine Elliott. Since then he has been the party’s bulldog in the Legislature as finance critic, holding Premier Kathleen Wynne’s feet to the fire on numerous issues.
He has the unanimous support of the PC provincial caucus and Northern Ontario politicians of more than just Tory persuasions. The North Bay Nugget quoted Mayor Al McDonald, a former MPP himself, saying Mr. Fedeli would be a “great choice” for party leader. He pointed to the need for an immigration strategy for Northern Ontario that Fedeli could champion, plus a rollback of provincial policies that have impaired the potential for development in the north.
The article quoted other North Bay municipal politicians singing Fedeli’s praises. He has also generated excitement province-wide on social media.
He is a proven winner in North Bay. A two-term mayor, he won the 2003 campaign against three challengers, including a former deputy-mayor, earning 75 per cent of the total votes cast. In the 2006 campaign, opposed by a former mayor, he earned more than two-thirds of the votes. Each year he donated his approximately $50,000 salary to a different charity.
His business was a roaring success. It was listed as number 34 of the top 50 Canadian best places to work by Profit, a magazine for small business. He was recognized as one of Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs in an episode of Money Makers. He sold his business in 1992 for a large profit, and has been a leading philanthropist in the city ever since.
He donated $250,000 to Nipissing University, $100,000 to Canadore College, and then $100,000 more. He donated $250,000 for the Harris Learning Library at Nipissing University and $150,000 for the city’s new hospital.
Prior to taking over the finance critic role in 2013, he was the energy critic and critic of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. He was the main party investigator and agitator over gas plant scandals in Oakville and Mississauga. In 2013, he wrote to the Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner to ask for an investigation of the removal of emails in the Premier’s Office pertaining to the gas plant controversy. The then Premier's chief of staff was recently found guilty.
He also fought the Liberal government on the divestment of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, based in North Bay. His efforts were successful and the ONTC is now on sound financial footing.
North Bay is excited. We had a premier from here before – Mike Harris. Could Vic Fedeli be the second from this city of 50,000, just a few hours north of Toronto?
Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting. He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre and is now chair of the board of directors.
Commentary by: Muhammad Ali in Toronto, ON
I’m the child of Indian immigrants and, for my family, ‘Indian Standard Time’ is a term used to determine that even when we are running late, we are arriving with the party in full-swing. In the case of trade negotiations between Canada and India, we have reached Indian Standard Time.
Our two countries have long had a ‘complex’ bilateral relationship. While the previous Canadian government was able to successfully end a long-simmering nuclear dispute, allowing for the sale of Canadian uranium to India, it was unable to complete the free trade negotiations started back in 2010. Several cabinet ministers have visited India over the past two years, in addition to visits by various provincial premiers and big-city mayors to encourage more bilateral trade and investment between their respected jurisdictions.
But progress remains slow on a formal trade agreement.
Part of the reason for this slow progress is the lack of high-level discussions between Prime Minister Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With Trudeau visiting China twice and hosting President Xi Jinping in Canada, Indian officials may wonder how high of a priority trade with India is for the Canadian government. China and India are regional rivals economically, militarily and politically. They want assurances Canada cares and understands India.
Trudeau experiences a high degree of popularity amongst India’s population and within the Indo-Canadian community, an important political force in Canadian politics. To appease his key voter base and the interests of Canadian businesses, Trudeau will need to maximize his impact during his trip to India.
The purpose of this trip will be threefold: First, to quell any concerns Prime Minister Modi may have with the priority Canada has assigned to its relationship with China; second, to address any issues arising from the differences between the Indian and Indo-Canadian diasporas; and lastly, on issues impacting trade negotiations.
It will be part of Trudeau’s task to get Modi’s focus on the urgency and benefits of stronger trade ties with a trade agreement and use his popularity and charisma to show Modi that his commitment to improving our bilateral relationship is real and not calculated to only shore up domestic support.
South Asians in Canada hold tremendous political influence reflected by the appointment of four Sikh-Canadian ministers in important portfolios, and nearly two dozen MPs and Senators currently serving our country. Indo-Canadians have become engaged citizens who are shaping industry, culture and policy for Canadians. Addressing the delicate relationship between the Indian and Indo-Canadian diasporas will aide Trudeau to move negotiations forward.
Finally, Trudeau will be looking to address core economic issues such as agricultural exports to India, access to natural resources and migrant skilled workers coming to Canada. At the moment, India has raised tariffs on pulse seed imports, the majority of which comes from Saskatchewan. Canada produces a third of the worlds pulse crops (ex. lentils, peas, chickpeas) and this will have a ripple effect throughout the Canadian agricultural industry.
India and Canada can benefit from greater mobility of technology-trained workers, such as software engineers, between both countries. With the Waterloo-Toronto corridor and Bangalore-Hyderabad tech-centres hosting a thriving technology sector, a trade agreement would be able to enhance a bilateral ecosystem for companies to further develop.
Of most importance for Trudeau will be securing environmental and labour standards that have become core negotiating principles for this government. Canada’s leverage to securing these standards is giving India its first free-trade access to a Western market, including Canadian businesses that have access to North America, the EU, several countries in South America and potentially 10 Pacific-coast nations. Amidst the populist rhetoric to protectionism and anti-trade, Trudeau is positioning Canada as a beacon of economic opportunity that India would benefit from tremendously.
This trip to India, if successful, may cement Trudeau’s ability to deliver on his promise to diversify Canadian market access and reduce our dependence on the Americans, who continue to play Russian roulette with NAFTA discussions. Given the NAFTA risks, Canada needs this trade deal more than India does — to which Trudeau must move quickly before he loses any leverage in these talks.
This piece was republished under arrangement with iPolitics.
Commentary by: Rodel J Ramos in Mississauga
It seems our Filipino leaders have no vision and no ambition except to lead their small ethnic tribes and followers to socials, beauty contest, religious, sports and yearly traditions that lead to nowhere and no future for our people. While some are involved in politics, we do not seem to know how to play the game and benefit from it. Some of us are already proud to know well known politicians and kiss their ass.
We can’t blame anyone else but ourselves. When you do nothing and just watch your people being abused by the system and politicians, you are to blame. Most of us do not go out and vote and therefore are irrelevant to the system. Yet it is our taxes that make the government work and it is our efforts that make Canada grow. We need good leaders but we are good at doubting, maligning and shooting our leaders who rise above us specially when it comes to money. We do not know how to encourage and reward good leaders who have the our concern and have the expertise to lead and manage. We always doubt their intentions. And then we go to court, spend hundreds of thousands of our money just to prove that we are right.
While other ethnic groups get millions of grants from the Government, we are getting peanuts and our concerns are not being addressed. Our community gets ignored. They approach us only during election time to get our votes. Our community is only good at fiestas and small parties every weekend which only drains the pockets of our people. No wonder we all retire poor. After more than 40 years we can only see a few significant accomplishments and legacies. Yet we claim to be a great people.
We are more than 350,000 Filipino Canadians in Ontario and less than a million in the whole of Canada in a country with less than 35 million population. And we are acting as if we are powerless and being played around by politicians.
We are the most active community with more than 350 organizations in Metro Toronto alone. We have chapters in most of the Churches specially Couples for Christ and Bukas Loob sa Diyos. We even have an organization of Filipino priests. Our Filipino Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Rizal, Jaycees, and Rotarians have wide influence in our society. Even our caregivers who work for the rich specially the political leaders have connection and influence. We rejuvenated the Catholic Churches and other religious churches. Our talents and taxes have contributed much to the progress of this country.
Most of us are well educated but our foreign education is not recognized.
It is time we show that we have the power to bring down a government that is not responsive to our needs and concerns and just flatter us during elections. It is also to show that we can make an unknown leader take over the government with our help. The Liberals in power have no room for Filipinos to rise because all their positions are filled. And they show no desire to even appoint our best in any position in the government. They talk about diversity but only appoint the whites.
The Progressive Conservatives under Patrick Brown have accepted Atty. Angely Pacis as their official candidate in Mississauga Centre. She is a lawyer, a journalist and a graduate of Harvard, the daughter of the late Doctor Lydia and Antonio Pacis. She is most qualified to be a Member of the Provincial Parliament and a pride for our people. I am sure with her qualifications, Patrick Brown will give her a portfolio as a Minister when they win.
The Liberals in spite of our years of loyalty to them has never done much for our people. They never appointed any of our people to high positions in government. The Conservatives under former Prime Minister Harper appointed Senator Tobias (Jun) Enverga, and Ontario Supreme Court Judge Steve Corroza and helped the caregivers with cancer who were about to be deported stay in Canada and brought their families here. He brought about the Juana Tejada Law.
The smaller communities have better strategies than us. They can elect their own people into high offices by mere show of strength and manipulations. Look at what happened to Atty. Antonio Villarin in a nomination in Scarborough where he was defeated by a Sri Lankan, a Tamil, a small ethnic community. Shame on us all. We can also have our own representative but we have to know the game, work harder and stand together, otherwise we are powerless and hopeless as a people. We have to cultivate and train potential politicians in our community. It takes years to learn the game. And it needs the whole community to raise a candidate. We have to contribute to the funds and promote them. We have to be there to vote during the nomination and election. We can’t just brag about our greatness but show nothing.
Patrick Brown is our chance to shine. He is close to the Filipino community. He choose to take not just one but three vacations in the Philippines instead of other places. Patrick loves halo halo and even had a Halo Halo Party at Queens Park. He was even inducted by Sir Joe Damasco as member of the Knights of Rizal. He recognizes the talents and strength of the Filipino community.
There is no room for us to grow in the Liberal Party. I understand the loyalty of the Filipinos to the Liberals. Some say because of Pierre Trudeau who opened up Canada to the Filipinos during his time. Did he open Canada to us because of his love for Filipinos or that Canada needed the talents and industry of the Filipinos? We worked hard and paid our taxes for many years. We are not free loaders. It was this contribution that enriched Canada. Even if we owe our gratitude, does it mean we have to serve all our lives with gratitude or servitude?
The Provincial Liberals under Kathleen Wynne wasted millions of dollars with their bad decisions of cancelling the two energy power plants in Mississauga in their incompetence. They sold the Hydro shares and made our electricity so expensive, yet we subsidize electricity in the U.S.
They are not doing anything to bring the cost of housing down. Let’s make this housing crises into job opportunities for Ontarians specially the poor. We are attracting a million immigrants every 3 years and 40% of that goes to Ontario. They should open up lands in farming communities close to Toronto for housing. We should built houses for these people at an affordable rate. Our children will not be able to afford the present real estate prices.
Republished under arrangement with The Philippine Reporter.
By: Davina Bhandar in Vancouver
Within the space of a few moments, Jagmeet Singh became one of Canada’s most admired politicians. His cool-under-pressure reaction to being confronted by an angry heckler is just one of the reasons Singh is considered to be the favourite contender for leadership of the federal New Democratic Party.
A video of the Sept. 6 incident at Singh’s campaign event in Brampton, Ont., went viral and has been viewed millions of times in Canada and around the world. Moments into the event, an angry white woman interrupted Singh and shouted Islamophobic and vitriolic statements at him, and physically gesticulated, demonstrating her feeling of entitlement — to space, voice and position - in relation to others at the event.
Singh seemed undeterred by the outburst. His response to her rant was to rally his audience to help him relay his campaign message. He asked his guests to chant: “Love and courage.”
What is the nature of Singh’s call for love? His political slogan is based on a message of universal love and courage. Singh’s message — and chant that evening — is uniquely situated among the slogans of the three other candidates: Charlie Angus “Got your back,” Niki Ashton “Building a movement, together,” and Guy Caron, “Let’s Build a Progressive and Sustainable Economy.”
The dramatic events at the Sept. 6 meeting demonstrates something about Singh, as a person and as a candidate. It also points to new undercurrents of religion and spirituality and its role — not only in Canadian politics, but also in the leadership race for the NDP.
Singh’s campaign and potential leadership arrives in a climate of increasing hatred, fear and division. His call for universal love is coherent with Sikhism, which challenges the division between daily life and a devotional love that guides all thought and action. How does the language of love and courage relate to a New Democratic Party trying to find its way in a shifting political landscape?
Singh’s outward appearance solicits questions from some Canadians — as in the case of the heckler — regarding his secular position: To what degree does Singh’s religion relate to his policy ideas or conduct?
Canadian political institutions and traditions are imbued with Judeo-Christian values and symbols. Yet the separation of church and state maintains religion does not dictate the making of policy and law. However, in the game of politics, courting ethno-racial, national and religious identified voters has become a central art of party campaign strategists.
Political parties of all persuasions have had to navigate this division in a variety of ways. In Canada, the left social democratic tradition, represented now by the NDP, has had less experience with faith-based movements and the religious identity of its leaders than their right-wing counterparts and left-leaning parties elsewhere in the world. Singh’s leadership challenge will likely change that.
While Singh is positioned as a secular politician, his ethos, sense of justice and formation of his identity is connected to a Sikh practice. The very essence of the message of universal love and courage is embedded in a Sikh devotion, rather than a secular idea of loving all humankind. Practising Sikhism defines a way of life — one that is contemplative, meditative and committed to spiritualism and positive actions.
To understand the contemporary role of religion in politics, we need to look at one of our turning points: 9/11. The attacks on New York City and the Pentagon served as a marker of the time foreign and domestic policy in North America was called upon to name Islamic terrorism as a universal enemy.
Once North America and other western governments embraced the rhetoric of a civilization divide, the psyche of liberal democratic nations split apart. The already tenuous divide between the religious and secular began to rupture further.
This reinforced a binary division and emboldened a powerful discourse of racism and Islamophobia. The basic premise is that Islam represents something universally distinct from Christian belief systems.
This discourse of racism and difference has gained strength and societal control through the election of conservative governments with moral platforms that build on fears and anxieties of susceptible citizens.
Sixteen years of corrosive discourses since 9/11 has led to: Us vs. Them, the Clash of Civilizations and racism. We are now at the point of the normalization of white supremacy. It is no longer an oddity or a left-wing conspiracy theory to discuss the presence of fascism and neo-Nazis — these are events widely circulated in our social media feeds and featured during the evening news.
Islamophobia and racism are often understood to be twinned structures of oppression. In many ways they are, but there are complex differences between them. They disseminate and exist in different political, cultural and social taxonomies.
Islamophobia operates through systems of stereotypes, often misunderstanding or misrepresenting the traditions, religious practices and customs of highly diverse ethno-national and racial communities. Islamophobia has been manufactured in multiple ways in society through popular culture, media, policy and criminalizing targeting Islam and Muslims.
Racism is a larger systemic operation of power denigrating one race while validating or elevating another.
When the Harper Conservatives were in government, they attempted to map onto Canadian national values a form of social conservatism. This was articulated through a distinction between Canada and the “barbaric cultural practices” of others.
The clear lines that were being drawn between what Harper referred to as “old stock Canadians” during a 2015 federal leaders’ debate brought into discourse front and center the relationship between white supremacy and Islamophobia. It connected the dots between a normative white Christian Canadian identity that could stand against the racialized others.
Now the Conservative Party has a leader who proudly accepts the label: “Harper with a Smile.”“ Andrew Scheer has the support of social conservatives in the Conservative Party. He has steadfastly supported free speech over the condemnation of Islamophobia and was absent during the House of Commons vote for the Anti-Islamophobia Motion M-103, overwhelmingly passed in the House of Commons.
Singh said his ability to remain cool under pressure was largely owed to his experience of being a brown, Sikh and turbaned man, growing up in the 1980s in Brampton, Ont., just northwest of Toronto.
His past experiences of religious and racist intolerance helped to fortify him against racist language and assault.
In the moment in which the racist woman yelled at him, she assumed he was a Muslim. Many wondered why Singh did not attempt to correct her misconceived perception; he is not a Muslim, but rather, a Sikh.
Suggesting such a distinction in the moment, he said, would only further the misunderstanding that somehow being Muslim means such treatment is considered justifiable. His reaction, he said, should not be to proclaim his religion. By not correcting this misconception, Singh was acting in solidarity against Islamophobia.
Sikhs have been affected throughout the post-9/11 discourses of Islamophobia, mainly because of this misunderstood identity. In the U.S., and elsewhere, there has been a rise in hate bias attacks against Sikhs, with the 2012 Oak Creek, Wis., shooting as a visible example.
While there are those who, in the similar vein as Singh, have sought to challenge Islamophobia by standing in solidarity, there have also been many instances where Sikhs in America, the U.K. and Canada painstakingly distinguish themselves from Muslims.
However, in countless examples, when Islamophobia is experienced in the public sphere against properly identified Muslims, there has been a lack of outcry.
In Canada, the shooting deaths in Quebec’s Sainte-Foy’s Mosque, in which Azzedine Soufiane, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubakar Thabthi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Mamadou Tanou Barry, and Ibrahim Barry were killed, was unmistakably an act of terrorism. Canadians across the country mourned this tragedy. And yet was it recognized as an act of terrorism against the citizens of this state?
The day-to-day effects of Islamophobia have led to many Muslims living with heightened experiences of fear and not knowing what they might encounter on a walk to school, a day at work or even waiting for a bus.
The left social-democrats of the NDP hold steadfastly to their conception of justice, fairness and equality in a secular world. The ways in which people are encountering the public today, however, is seemingly much murkier than these stark divisions.
The issues of racism, religious intolerance and social justice are not central issues for any federal political party. These issues, however, should no longer be viewed as separate from major policy platforms including health, welfare reform, employment, national defense, national security, aboriginal relations and education. Perhaps a political leader such as Jagmeet Singh will be able to navigate these debates with an alacrity and style we have yet to witness in the Canadian political world.
Commentary By: Avi Benlolo in Toronto
Today is International Day of Democracy. Yet, the western world seems to have lost hope of the very fundamentals we are supposed to hold dear to our hearts – freedom, equality, respect and peace building. Democracies are far from perfect and disparities within exist and must be addressed to alleviate hardship and continued inequality. However, Gross Domestic Product, mortality and literacy rates are amongst the highest in the world among leading nation states which practice democracy. Third-world developing nations struggle with persistent war, poverty, disparity, environmental degradation and inequity. It’s no wonder that democracies like Canada enjoy an inflow of migrants who hope to live in a nation which respects the UN Declaration for Human Rights, unlike the majority of the UN General Assembly.
Still, democracies have become far too forgiving or compromising. While we preach gender equality, we look the other way as non-democracies practice gender apartheid and withhold women's rights, for example. We say we want to promote "women and girls' leadership and participation in political, social and peace-building processes" which would be essential to building democracies worldwide, but we timidly look the other way. We provide military equipment as Canada has to Saudi Arabia and promote trade with nations that discriminate against others, and in many cases are spreading the seeds of hate and intolerance worldwide.
For all of its good deeds in assisting the developing world with billions of dollars of investment aid in order to further democracy, the west is targeted relentlessly by terrorists who use the very freedom of movement and assembly to harm innocent people. Today, on International Day of Democracy, European cities have been placed on high alert as a result of a number of incidents, including a bomb in the London subway which injured 22 people; a hammer attack in Lyon that critically injured two women by a man running down the street yelling "Allahu Akhbar"; a knifeman stopped by police in Birmingham and a highway closed in Malmo after explosives were found in a car.
Yet our democracy is failing to curb the attack on the west, on our institutions and our citizens. We have seen a slow and steady degradation of our way of life since 9/11 with increasing spate of terrorism and relentless usage of rights like 'free speech' to sow hate and discord. In many ways, Jewish communities across Europe have been like the so-called canaries in the coal mine – having been the initial recipients of most terror attacks. Now it has spread to society at large.
In Canada, while we speak about equity, anti-racism, tolerance and peace building, our hate crime laws fail to be enforced giving way to more hate crime. We learned this week that in Quebec, the Crown Attorney dropped charges against two imams who were captured on video preaching hatred and violence against Jews at a Montreal mosque. In Toronto, a Muslim community calls for the elimination of Jews each year at its annual "Al Quds" protest at Queen’s Park while violence promoting antisemitic pamphlet circulates the province, with little reaction from authorities. Graffiti stating "Hitler was Right" is spray painted on bridges without condemnation from our premier or leading public figures.
If we are going to celebrate democracy and its fundamentals, we must learn to protect and defend our values and ideals. If democracies celebrate tolerance, they cannot and should not tolerate those who are intolerant of others. They must stand up to hate, enforce hate crime and hate speech laws and place our very values and ideals – like women's rights, justice and equality – first and foremost. Otherwise, I fear that if we are not passionate about our exceptional democratic system, hope for humanity might be lost.
Avi Benlolo is a Canadian human rights activist, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, the Canadian branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
By: Jeremy J. Nuttall in Ottawa
Canada could turn into a U.S.-style partisan battleground if its politicians and media don’t mend their ways, says former Conservative MP Chris Alexander.
Alexander, one of the Harper government cabinet ministers defeated in the 2015 election and an unsuccessful leadership candidate, has recently been vocal about the media, politics and the “alt-right” in Canada.
In a Tyee interview he acknowledged extreme right-wing factions were allowed a place in the Conservative party, but predicted that will change as a result of the backlash after deadly racist demonstrations in Virginia last month.
That kind of violence hasn’t hit Canada, Alexander said, and politicians and journalists need to work to make sure it never does.
But Alexander’s attempt to set out the failings of the Canadian media in an opinion piece he wrote for Maclean’s has drawn its own backlash.
Alexander accused the media of viewing Canadian politics through an American lens and inflaming tensions that divide the country.
And he set out what he called false accusations that he was anti-Muslim, linking them to a March 2015 speech by Justin Trudeau at McGill University reprinted in Maclean’s and then repeated “over and over.”
In the speech Trudeau says Alexander stood in the House of Commons and declared a woman’s hijab was “an indefensible perversion of Canadian values.”
“I never said any such thing,” Alexander wrote in the Maclean’s piece. “My wife Hedvig, who is Danish, wore a hijab through seven years in Afghanistan.” Alexander was Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 and representative of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan until 2009.
Alexander, defending the Conservative government’s bid to require women to remove their hijabs — head scarves — during citizenship ceremonies, did say “the hijab has been used to cover the face of women... under the terrible influence of the Taliban in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
“Those practices have no place in our citizenship ceremonies, where we insist on confirming the identity and confirming the commitment of new citizens to our laws, to our sovereign, to our values, and to our traditions,” he told the House of Commons.
Alexander’s opinion piece sparked a rebuke from Ottawa Citizen columnist Shannon Gormley.
She said Alexander and other “far-right populists” were trying to “scapegoat elites” for their own failings.
“Adding insult to self-inflicted injuries, perhaps they should be pitied and politely ignored,” she wrote. “Only, in largely blaming others for their own fall just as they blamed them for social decline, populist misopportunists diminish the truth and the social cohesion they claim to desire.”
Failings of media
Alexander told The Tyee the Citizen column highlighted the failings of Canadian media he described in Maclean’s.
The column noted Alexander’s role in the 2015 pre-election announcement of a “barbaric cultural practices tip line” widely panned as anti-Muslim by pundits and political opponents.
But he maintains the tip line plan didn’t reflect bigotry or anti-Muslim sentiments. Alexander said he spoke to victims of cultural practices like forced marriage as he researched the initiative and they used the word “barbaric” to describe their experiences.
Victims even insisted the word be used in the government's tip line name, Alexander said.
But the media mislead the public, he alleged, painting it as a bigoted policy.
“Literally people go around calling it an anti-Muslim snitch line,” he said. “They are misleading the audience in the most dangerous way. There was nothing exclusive anti-anybody in that legislation.”
Alexander said if he had a dime for every person who referred to the line negatively without mentioning things like “forced marriage” or “honour killings” he’d be a rich man.
Alexander still speaks to the news media. But he said the barbaric cultural practices tip line coverage is the kind of story causing Conservatives to boycott media outlets like the CBC, which they say is biased against them.
While some won’t speak to the CBC, many Conservatives — including Alexander — did speak to the Rebel, a controversial right-wing online media outlet.
Alexander had been interviewed by the Rebel and appeared at the organization’s rallies.
In March he tweeted he would no longer attend Rebel events after a piece by contributor Gavin McInnes entitled “10 things I hate about Jews.”
“We have a responsibility, all of us, to hold media and social media to account to the extent they allow themselves to be platforms for spreading hate,” Alexander said then.
Alexander said he wants to talk to all media, and deciding what organizations he won’t speak to is subject to “constant review.”
He said his philosophy is “talk to everyone, pander to no one” and not to say different things to different outlets.
“I don’t think we should be, as a matter of course, boycotting media just because we disagree with reports that they put out,” he said. “I will continue to talk to the CBC and all the other professional media outlets.”
Alexander said the Canadian media is generally “professional” but declining circulations and audiences are having a noticeable affect on quality.
The downward trend, he said, has many Canadians relying on foreign news services as their go-to source for information.
During his years in Parliament from 2011 to 2015, Alexander said he noticed Canadians were increasingly less interested in consuming news from Canadian outlets.
One result has been the growing influence of the polarized political coverage from the United States, he said. “It crowds out our national story,” he said.
The Canadian media needs to change to avoid the same kind of partisan breakdown, Alexander said.
Media must create a “shared sense of public service,” he said, rather than existing to produce clickbait. Canadians should feel served by their media.
Often Canadian media seem to allow their headlines to be determined by negative attacks from a politician’s opponents, he added.
Reporters can’t allow the spin coming out of someone’s war room to drive their coverage, Alexander said, calling for more in-depth reporting and analysis.
“Let's put things in the context of real policy.”
Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee’s reader-funded Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. This piece was republished under arrangement with the Tyee.
Commentary by: Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton
Time is quickly running out for this liberal government. With recent polls showing Kathleen Wynne’s approval rating hovering at 19 per cent within her home province, a historically low rate which stands below all other active Premiers.
Premier Wynne needs to step aside soon and allow another member of the party an opportunity to rebuild the Ontario Liberal brand at a time when they can still recover ahead of the next provincial election. If she waits any longer, she risks depriving her party of any chance to enjoy the grace period that is usually afforded to new leaders. On another tangent, refusal to leave could result in further economic hardships for a province that was once looked at as a prosperous financial state.
Since that election, the gaffes and examples of Liberal mismanagement have been stacking up like cordwood and polls have shown that Ontario voters are ready for a change. The Tories have made significant gains, now finding themselves sitting at 38% in the polls to the Liberals’ 30% and NDP 24%. The recent Forum poll even suggests, say it isn’t so, that the Tories are ahead in Toronto!
Wynne’s hubris is larger than the budget deficit she and her party have racked up under their leadership, yet she insists she will not relinquish her position of leadership. If that is the case, then I am convinced we are going to see a catastrophic meltdown of her party from which the Liberals are not likely to recover for some time.
Liberal failures are beginning to add up: the “billion-dollar gas plant boondoggle”, the disastrously inept mismanagement of hydro in general, the more than $300 billion in provincial deficit, Wynne's costly handling of the carbon tax and environment files, the Sudbury by-election scandal, and the botched sale of Hydro-One; are all contributing to the province's mistrust of the ruling party.
The Wynne Government's recent report on Ontario education reported that hardly half of Ontario's Grade 6 students passed provincial standards in math this year. The lack of improvement has lead the party to suggest a curriculum overhaul. Education Minister Mitzie Hunter went on to say, "there's still more work to do, especially when it comes to math overall."
Even with the additional $60 million provided to schools for improved Math curriculums, students continue to struggle with the subject.
Ontarians and pundits alike are reaching the same conclusion that the Liberal party’s popularity and prospects cannot recover with Wynne at the helm of the government.
Ontario’s economy is being subjected to damage, the likes of which it has never seen and may never recover from. Which may leave the citizens of this once great and prosperous province to struggle against epic currents just to keep their heads above the proverbial water.
Wynne’s terrible leadership and numerous failures have done real and lasting damage to the Province of Ontario. It is time for her to accept responsibility for her mismanagement, step aside, and allow another to take over.
This is now Patrick Brown’s election to lose and he needs to step up and show he has what it takes to lead Ontario out of the bleak state of affairs that Wynne and her Liberals have dragged us into.
Brampton-based Surjit Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer who has previously contributed to the Huffington Post, Toronto Sun and other publications.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit