Commentary by: Phil Gurski in Ottawa
Three cheers for Saudi Arabia! The conservative Kingdom has ruled that women can now drive and no longer need to be accompanied by a mahram (essentially a male guardian) when they are in a car. Many are celebrating this decision although some conservative killjoys have accused the government of ‘bending the rules of Sharia’. Some have joked that the country has finally joined the 20th century.
That quip is actually more accurate than might appear at first reading. In many ways – socially, religiously, ideologically – Saudi is stuck not in the 20th century but in the 18th century, and, truth be told, in the seventh century. The 18th century is a reference to the pact made between the up and coming Al Saud family and a bunch of ultra-conservative clerics headed by Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab whereby the Al Sauds took care of people’s economic and political well-being while the ‘Wahhabis’ looked after their souls.
By that, I mean, they imposed an austere, joyless interpretation of Islam that they claimed was void of what they saw as all the alterations and aberrations that had entered into the faith since the time of the Prophet Muhammad in the early to mid-600’s. Wahhabi Islam is rejected by the vast majority of the world’s Muslims and would have remained an insignificant blip on the international stage had it not been for the 1970's oil crisis and the gazillions of dollars that flowed into Saudi coffers, only to be redirected worldwide in the spread – through mosques and schools – of this hateful and intolerant version of Islam.
There really is no other way to look at Saudi Islam and it is undeniable that the vitriol inherent in Wahhabism is directly responsible for a huge part of the ideology that became Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
So what are the Saudis doing about all this? After all, the Kingdom has suffered from jihadi attacks itself and one would think that the regime does not want or like to be tainted with any association with a violent bunch of terrorists. It is an open debate, though, whether Saudi Arabia really cares what outsiders think in light of its massive wealth and still rather closed society. Here the news is both good and bad.
On the good side, the government has been cracking down on ‘preachers of hate’ and dismantling their ability to spread their message. Many have also been arrested and Saudi security forces have successfully foiled many terrorist plots. The ‘reform’ programme – and I use the term loosely – of King Salman and, probably more importantly, his son and second-in-line for the throne Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is ambitious in scope and must be seen as a move in the right direction. Whether it actually achieves much and how the Wahhabi clerics react to it will bear watching.
The decision to allow women to drive should be seen through this prism.
On the other hand, Wahhabi influence is still growing in places like South Asia and Southeast Asia, as clerics continue to influence the locals, including children in madrassas and pesantren (what they call madrassas in Indonesia). Saudi economic weight is clearly playing a role here as the Kingdom can offer education and religious instruction to countries where there simply isn’t enough room in the budget to do so.
Saudi Arabia is also incontrovertibly involved in massive human rights violations in Yemen, where it has been mired for years in a civil war that it tries to paint as a necessary struggle to prevent Iranian (read: Shia) infiltration into the Arabian Peninsula. The Gulf kingdom is trying to quash attempts to have independent, neutral observers carry out investigations in Yemen to determine the scale of suffering and point fingers at those responsible for it.
Speaking of the Shia, Saudi police and the military continue to mount ‘counter terrorism’ operations in the country’s Shia-dominant eastern provinces. While there certainly are violent extremists in the region, a lot of the violence is state-imposed and driven by the Wahhabi belief that the only good Shiite is a dead one.
It is thus a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to Saudi Arabia and terrorism. The Kingdom talks the talk and is involved in some worthwhile national, regional (not Yemen) and international counter-terrorism initiatives. But, as long as Wahhabi Islam is the dominant form of Islam practised in the country and spread through Saudi ‘benevolence’ worldwide, that nation must be seen as both part of the solution and a big part of the problem.
What then do we in the West do? The unfortunate answer, for the time being, is ‘not much’. We cannot ignore Saudi Arabia, we cannot tell it what to do, we cannot isolate it and we cannot pretend that it is not behind the contagion of hateful Islamic teachings. In other words, we are damned if we do nothing and damned if we do something (if anyone has a better idea please e-mail me).
Last week, I was a guest lecturer in a graduate course on terrorism offered by my friend Thomas Juneau at the University of Ottawa. The class was discussing the nature of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and the consensus seemed to be that Washington has no choice but to guarantee the Kingdom’s existence and remain a close ally because all the alternatives are worse (if Saudi Arabia decides to move closer to Russia or China, going in an even more radical direction, etc.).
That is what has been termed Sophie’s Choice – where either decision is unbearable. And that is seldom a good place to find oneself.
Phil Gurski has worked for more than three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). His latest book The Lesser Jihads is now available online and in bookstores.
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.
By Janice Dickson in Ottawa
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer introduced a handful of new policy ideas during the nine month long leadership race, but Tory strategists suggest they likely won’t be part of the Tories 2019 election platform.
Scheer has vowed to take away federal funding from universities that don’t defend free speech. He’s proposed displaying the flags of countries that export oil to Canada on gas pumps. Scheer, who sends his own children to a faith-based school, has proposed a tax break for parents who home-school their children or send them to independent schools. He also suggested in an interview with a community newspaper that he would axe CBC’s news division.
Conservative strategist and vice chair of Summa Strategies Tim Powers said he would be surprised if more than 20 per cent of Scheer’s ideas became a part of the Conservative party’s 2019 platform.
Powers said Scheer’s proposal to de-fund universities that don’t protect free speech could be an election promise — because that idea has appealed to more than just Conservatives — but he called the flags on gas pumps idea “gimmicky.”
Powers said he thinks that Scheer’s tax credit for home-schooled families and for families who send their children to faith-based schools likely would present problems for him because his opponents will say he’s beholden to certain faith groups.
Keith Beardsley, a longtime Conservative strategist and former deputy chief of staff to Stephen Harper, said Scheer’s policies are easy to implement, but … “Stickers on gas pumps? I doubt many motorists will give a damn. Raise the prices and you have a problem.”
Beardsley said a tax credit for homeschooling or faith-based schools could be opening up a can of worms. “Which faiths? How much will it cost the government when Scheer promises to balance the books?”
Beardsley said that while attacking the CBC is popular among Conservatives and makes for good rhetoric, it’s not practical.
“[Scheer] said he wasn’t going to present anything in 2017 that he wouldn’t run on in 2019,” said Nancy Bishay, a spokesperson for Scheer.
“There are many interesting proposals he put forward and he’ll work together with the caucus, and also through the grassroots conservative policy process, to put together a platform to present to Canadians in 2019,” said Bishay.
Scheer’s ideas will have to be taken under consideration at the Conservative party’s policy conference in Halifax next year. But since he has championed a few very specific policies, delegates likely will support his wishes, said Susan Elliott, a Conservative strategist and partner at Strategy Portal.
But Elliott, who favoured Michael Chong for the leadership, suggested that the Conservative party is still going to have a hard time appealing to millennials in the 2019 election — by which time, she said, they will have become the largest single voting bloc, surpassing the baby boomers.
“I personally don’t think millennials will find those issues motivating. I just don’t think they are high on their top issues of concern,” said Elliott of Scheer’s ideas, specifically tax credits for home-school or faith-based schooling, and taking funding away from universities that don’t protect free speech.
“Millennials will want a credible climate change plan. A revenue-neutral carbon tax – also eliminating cumbersome regulations and directives – is the most cost-effective and conservative way to achieve that, but both party members and the new leader rejected that proposal.”
Powers said Scheer likely will “beg, borrow and steal” ideas from other candidates — but that Chong’s carbon pricing idea won’t be one of them.
Elliott said millennials don’t want to reopen debates on social issues like women’s reproductive rights and equal rights for LGBTQ citizens. In fact, said Elliott, “they don’t even understand why those are debates.”
She said political hostility towards people of diverse backgrounds and contrary points of view is a foreign concept to most millennials — but it was front and centre during the CPC leadership race “in a way that would not attract millennials to our party.”
“We must trust Andrew Scheer, now that he has been chosen to lead, to understand these truths about the current electorate. I believe he is a smart man,” she said.
Elliott said she thinks Scheer will show wisdom in adopting “millennial-friendly policies” and convincing the party and caucus to come along.
“What did Trudeau campaign on in his leadership race in 2013 that became Liberal policy?” said Powers. “It’s hard to recall because it’s not often policy that determines who wins leadership races.”
By arrangement with iPolitics.ca
Commentary by Fred Maroun in Ottawa
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to replace the first-past-the-post electoral system of Canada during the last federal election campaign a year ago. Now that he is prime minister with a parliamentary majority, there is an expectation from opponents of that electoral system that he will deliver on a promise that he should never have made.
Opponents of the first-past-the-post system advance romantic ideas of better representation of the range of opinions of Canadians to make their case, but romanticism does not make for good policy. Fact is there is already more than adequate representation in Parliament of the diversity of Canadian opinions, and at the same time, groups on the extremes cannot easily dictate to the majority. (Under the current system, the candidate with the most votes is declared elected in every riding.)
In the current debate on electoral reform, the positions taken by the four national parties do not represent any romantic ideas of democracy. They represent nothing but their own best interests.
The Green Party and the NDP, who always elect a smaller percentage of Members of Parliament (MPs) than their shares of the vote, want proportional representation (a system under which the number of MPs would mirror a party’s popular vote).
The Conservatives, who have benefited from the first-past-the-post system and who know that no other system would work better for them, reject any electoral reform.
The Liberals, who know that they would benefit from preferential balloting since it favours middle-of-the-road parties (it is a system under which a voter ranks all candidates by order of preference), are said to support this system, although they have been careful not to admit it publicly.
If partisan interest is ignored, it is abundantly clear that the current system is not only good enough, but that it is the best possible system.
Just ask any immigrant if they prefer the Canadian system or the system used in their country of origin. Our voting system is why many immigrants come here.
Reflecting popular will
When it is convenient to them, politicians tell us that Canada is the best place in the world. We certainly are one of the best places, and that is because we have a political system that is able to govern Canada efficiently through changing times, while remaining representative of the general will of Canadians.
Proportional representation exists in other countries, and it certainly delivers on the promise to elect politicians that represent diverse opinions. However, it does so at a high price.
Smaller parties with narrow interests often become essential in forming government coalitions and are able to dictate their narrow agendas. This phenomenon is very visible in Israel, a country that uses proportional representation, as Haaretz explains in “Ultra-Orthodox Parties Are Back in Power and Israelis Aren’t Thrilled About It”.
The first-past-the-post system does not prevent politicians with minority opinions from being elected, but to be elected, they usually have to work within a party that has broad appeal. For example, the Conservative party includes MPs who wish to ban abortion, even though that is not the policy of the party. Under this system, MPs who hold minority opinions must convince others to support them, which is a good democratic practice. They cannot ram through unpopular changes by being power brokers.
The first-past-the-post system also does not prevent the emergence and the viability of third parties, although it does require them to have broader support than they would need under proportional representation. Five parties are currently represented in the Parliament of Canada, a consistent pattern over the last few decades, including the NDP, the Greens, the Liberals, the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois.
While it includes minority representation, the fact that the first-past-the-post system usually results in majority governments means that it offers the advantages of political stability and the ability to make tough choices. The Canada-U.S. free trade agreement (later followed by the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA) is now seen by all political parties as beneficial to Canada, but that agreement would not have occurred under proportional representation since the Conservative party was at that time the only party supporting it.
Preferential balloting could be seen as a reasonable compromise, since it would likely maintain the benefits of majority governments while giving voters the feeling that their votes are more influential than under first-past-the-past. However, there would be a diminished diversity of opinions represented in Parliament. Under preferential balloting, centrist views would gain an advantage since this is typically the second choice of people on either side of an issue. Therefore, less mainstream opinions would have a harder time being heard.
Delivering on election promises is typically good politics, but it is not good politics when the promise itself was foolish. Prime Minister Trudeau should do what is best for Canada, not what is best for his party – keep the electoral system as it is because it is the best in the world.
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lives in Ottawa. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at Gatestone Institute, The Times of Israel, Jerusalem Online, and Jerusalem Post.
by Ainslie Cruickshank in Ottawa
Social conservatives are hoping two anti-sex education candidates will split the vote in the upcoming Ottawa-Vanier byelection, leaving Progressive Conservative Andre Marin out in the cold.
“I don’t think it’s realistic that they will win without a large party machine behind them but they can certainly get enough votes to cause the pro-radical sex-ed PC candidate to lose if it’s a close race,” said Jack Fonseca, a senior political strategist with Campaign Life Coalition.
The coalition is a national anti-abortion organization and a vocal opponent of Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. It’s putting its support behind both Elizabeth de Viel Castel, a candidate running for the new single-issue political party Stop the New Sex Ed Agenda, and Stephanie McEvoy, who is running for the Canadian Constituents’ Party and also opposes the sex-education programming the Wynne government introduced last year — the first update to the sex-ed curriculum since 1998.
The new curriculum includes updates on healthy relationships, same-sex relationships, consent, mental health, online safety and the risks of “sexting”.
Marin has expressed support for the new sex-education curriculum, telling the Toronto Star that PC leader Patrick Brown “fell on the right side of the issue” after the party flip-flopped on it in the run-up to the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection. Requests for comment from Brown and Marin were declined Friday.
“The goal is to send a message to the PC establishment that you can’t win by alienating social conservatives. The social conservative wing of the party is very important and this is an issue you can win on,” Fonseca said.
The new curriculum is “age-inappropriate” and will put children in “harm’s way,” he said.
“Candidates owe it to the public to be open and honest and forthright on their position on such issues,” said Liberal campaign co-chair and Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews.
While Matthews said she disagrees with their position, she added she gives members of the new anti-sex ed party credit for making their views on the issue clearer than Brown has.
“Parents want their kids to learn how to protect themselves from sexual predators, from online predators. We want kids to understand what healthy relationships are. And I think the public is with us on that,” she said.
In Ottawa-Vanier, Fonseca said Campaign Life Coalition will encourage its supporters to not only vote for either de Viel Castel or McEvoy, but also to volunteer and donate to their campaigns.
Queenie Yu, the force behind the new Stop the New Sex Ed Agenda party, is running under its banner in Niagara West-Glanbrook. She previously ran as an independent on an anti-sex ed platform in the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection, coming in fourth with 575 votes.
While some parents do support the new curriculum, many have concerns, Yu said.
“Each child is unique. Just because a child reaches a certain age doesn’t mean they’re ready to learn about certain subjects. Parents know their kids best. Parents – not the government – should be deciding when, what and how much their children should be learning about sex,” she said.
In Niagara West-Glanbrook, Fonseca said Yu is a “supportable” candidate but Campaign Life Coalition would be happy to see Sam Oosterhoff, the PC candidate, win the seat given the support he showed for parental rights during his nomination campaign.
While Yu said she hasn’t spoke with Oosterhoff, she said she has been assured by mutual friends that the 19-year old candidate shares her values.
“I’d vote for him if I lived in the riding,” she said, noting her goal for the anti-sex ed party isn’t necessarily to win seats but rather to keep the issue in the public eye.
Charles McVety, the president of the Canada Christian College, warned a split with social conservativescould cost the PCs the 2018 election after Oosterhoff won the nomination over party president and former Conservative MP Rick Dykstra and Niagara regional Councillor Tony Quirk.
That’s a message Fonseca repeated Friday.
Pursuing a more liberal approach to social issues risks alienating the conservative base and invites the creation a new, “formidable” conservative party in the province, he said, adding that could result in Liberal governments for years to come.
By arrangement with ipolitics.ca
News Analysis by NCM Newsroom
Days after being sworn in as prime minister on November 4 last year, Justin Trudeau listed priority tasks for his ministers.
Like that of his colleagues, the list for John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, drew much from the Liberal party’s election promises.
While resettling Syrian refugees was the number one priority, McCallum was told that his overarching goal was “to reopen Canada’s doors to welcome those who want to contribute to its success.”
The wording was clever. While it tried to highlight the previous Conservative government’s reluctance to open Canada’s door to refugees, it retained the essence of what the country’s need for immigrants has always been: It’s the economy, stupid.
And, McCallum has stuck to the time-tested script. Tabling this year’s report on immigration targets in parliament, he said the government is boosting the base number of immigrants to be admitted next year to 300,000. The previous annual targets from 2011 to 2015 was 260,000, but it swelled to 300,000 this year on account of the Syrian arrivals. The last time this base figure was reached was way back in 1913.
Attempting to give this annual setting of targets a more long-term view, the minister told reporters that it “lays the foundation for future growth." What was unsaid is that last year’s election rhetoric for letting in more refugees was a one-off political gesture meant to to induce a feel-good across the country and reinforce the "Canada is back" mantra.
Although the 2017 intake targets includes 40,000 refugees and protected persons, it is down from nearly 56,000 this year. Also slightly down is the number of people who would be let in on humanitarian or compassionate grounds: 3,500 against this year’s 3,600.
And when it comes to government-assisted refugees, the numbers are far lower. The number for 2017 is 7,500, down from nearly 20,000 admitted so far this year, and still fewer than the nearly 10,000 admitted in 2015.
Like the previous government, the targets focus on boosting entries for those in the "economic" class. It has been increased to 172,500 from 160,600. In the family class, the number of sponsored spouses, partners, children, parents and grandparents will climb to 84,000 from 80,000.
Signalling left, turning right
While people in the settlement sector would bemoan the cuts to refugee intake given the continuing crises around the world, others would call it pragmatism. Those less charitable to the Liberals would say they are back at their game of signalling left, turning right.
The Liberals know that Canadians will not continue to be supportive of refugee resettlement. Reports about the government being caught off guard by the large number of children each Syrian family had in tow would cast doubts about the whole manner of bringing them in, starting from the vetting process.
Keeping both public perceptions and capacity constraints in mind, the government has astutely kept in abeyance its own economic growth council’s recommendation to raise annual immigration levels to 450,000 over the next five years.
However, it is doubling down on bringing in economic immigrants. Early on, Ottawa indicated that it would be more positively inclined towards international students becoming permanent residents, with McCallum terming them as “the perfect immigrants.”
The Express Entry immigration selection system, the key change to the economic immigration stream made by the previous government, is now being seen as a tool to also promote family reunification. The idea is to give candidates with family members already in Canada additional points.
The unsettling thing about the emphasis on immigration levels is the indifferent attitude towards the very feature that makes our system unique: one of the shortest paths to citizenship, that over 80 per cent of immigrants eagerly choose to take. At least until recently.
The number of citizenship applicants has plummeted for the second year in a row after the more than a doubling in the application fee from $300 to $630. For a while it was $200, after being at $100 for a long time.
Evidently, citizenship applications are down. Only 36,000 citizenship applications were received from January to June this year, a little more than one-third of the number for the same period last year, according to data obtained for policy analysis by Andrew Griffith, a retired immigration department director-general. In 2015, a total of 130,000 applications were submitted compared to an average of 200,000 in the previous years.
While $630 itself is a hefty sum, the actual cost incurred could be much more if one includes the fee (around $200) for a language proficiency test that many applicants would need to take, and further for the Canadian passport (minimum $120). And, in the case of persons from source countries like India that do not allow for dual citizenship, the expenses add up. The fee to process the giving up of Indian citizenship and obtaining a new visa would take the costs to well over $1,500.
Imagine a family of four needing to spend $6,000 when struggling economically to put roots in a new country. No one is suggesting that citizenship should come cheap, but forcing those on the cusp of becoming citizens to bear the whole cost of the process is rather unfair. Especially when the government is ready to waive or subsidize fees for refugees. How much more do new Canadians need to do to become citizens of a country they cheerily chose?
More importantly, isn't ultimate citizenship the whole point of welcoming new immigrants in the first place?
Whereas the Liberals were critical of all the changes to immigration rules made by the Harper government, they were coy about reviewing the citizenship fee during the election campaign. Now that they hold the reins and are reviewing Bill C6 to amend the Citizenship Act, there is still no mention of any adjustment to the fee.
While tax-paying permanent residents are already an underclass unable to vote even in local elections, this disenfranchisement is now set to grow and become a permanent feature of our polity. It calls into question our own understanding of democracy and surely not something we should be proud of.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all NCM columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of New Canadian Media.
THE Conservative Party’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) on Thursday announced further details on the first leadership debate in Saskatoon, including a new date and time, the debate moderator, and ticket sales.
The first debate will be an English debate moderated by Kaveri Braid. Kaveri is a principal with Earnscliffe Strategy Group, and former advisor […]
Commentary by Jagdeesh Mann in Vancouver
Though I have family’s roots in B.C. going back a century, I stumble when cataloging the “unique” values underlying Canadian culture.
The default list reads like a dating ad: Canadians are compassionate, polite, enjoy nature. These, however, are hardly unique to Canada and when stirred together in our post-national pot, the parts fail to congeal into a distinct culture, complete with unwritten rules on family and community interactions.
The sad reality is that Canadians are increasingly a world unto themselves. According to the 2011 census, for the first time ever there were more households of people living alone than there were of couples with children.
If there is a social fabric in this country, it is a giant sheet of bubble-wrap stretching from sea to sea, as both young and old increasingly live, consume and exist in their own disconnected worlds.
Kellie Leitch, a Conservative MP from Ontario, however, disagrees with these cold statistics and trends of social fragmentation. For the former labour minister and minister for the status of women, there is one Canada with one set of distinct values.
The aspiring candidate jockeying for Stephen Harper’s vacated office as Conservative leaderwants to test all immigrants for “anti-Canadian views that include intolerance toward other religions, cultures and sexual orientations, violent and/or misogynist behaviour and/or a lack of acceptance of our Canadian tradition of personal and economic freedoms.”
The statement reads so smoothly it is difficult to discern any sinister edges, such as whether one can wear a burkini at a beach or paddle a canoe in a turban. The ambiguity, however, is reaping rewards for Ms. Leitch.
The dark-horse MP has surged ahead of the Conservative Party leadership pack and into the eye of the news-cycle. The media attention has already started pulling the leadership contest to the right – Tony Clement is now also calling for “enhanced screening” as part of his national security platform.
Ms. Leitch’s policy position, however, is flawed on many counts, starting with redundancy. New immigrants are already subject to numerous checks through an arduous process that can take years. In addition to this, the immigration process intensely screens for any links to criminal or terror groups.
Once an application has been approved, immigrants swear a citizenship oath to uphold Canadian laws – again duplicating Ms. Leitch’s statement.
A robust values-screening test would require exhaustive probes, interviews, possibly polygraph tests and yet, these measures may still fall short in detecting thought crime. Of course, a practical shortcut would be to racially profile applicants but that would be distinctly un-Canadian by Ms. Leitch’s standards.
Based on an orthodox interpretation of Ms. Leitch’s statement, few of Canada’s 300,000 annual immigrants who currently are admitted as entrepreneurs, investors, tech workers, caregivers, grandparents and so forth would make it into the country. Any followers of a faith that does not endorse same-sex marriages, for example, could be labelled as an “intolerant,” including not only Muslims, but also Jews and Christians.
Suddenly the Mexican farm worker or the Filipina nanny are potential pariahs because of their Catholic faith. The Indian or Pakistani IT engineer may not be welcome given the practice of female infanticide in those countries.
This absurdity cuts to the heart of the flaw with Ms. Leitch’s proposal. Placed under a microscope, every culture across the globe will reveal underlying streaks of intolerance.
Ms. Leitch has conflated cultural values with Canada’s secular ideals. Her formula for Canadian values is a mission statement for the modern secular state – it is not a living, breathing, organic culture.
But the Conservative MP’s intent was never a sincere effort to strengthen our sense of national unity as much as it was to divide it. Her statement was an act of feigning concern for national security to wink at Mr. Harper’s power base of “old stock” Canadians. This is Part II of the Conservative Party’s “barbaric cultural practices” tip line.
Across the West, candidates with far greater ambition than scruples are skillfully wielding tools invoking fear to carve out voting blocks. Ms. Lietch is not the first Canadian politician to cloak discriminatory aims under the guise of a benevolent policy.
But when Ms. Leitch’s subterfuge is rejected for a serious candidate, she may be the first to learn the one true Canadian value is that we can all be one and yet be different – without having to be different in the same way.
Jagdeesh Mann is executive editor of the Asian Pacific Post. This comment has been republished under arrangement with the Post.
Canadians fully understand Donald Trump. That’s because they have three of their own – Preston Manning, Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney! For Canadians, Trump is a second viewing of a movie that they have seen before.
Manning broke away from the Progressive Conservative Party in 1987 to form the short-lived, right-wing Reform Party, which morphed into the Conservative Party led by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. While Manning and Harper have been sidelined for lack of support, the youthful political demagogue, Jason Kenney, with his federal conservative leadership ambitions dashed because of his closeness to Harper, is returning to Alberta hoping to lead a united right-wing party.
-- THE LINK
THE Conservative Party’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee announced on Tuesday the first two host cities and dates for leadership debates. The first debate of the leadership campaign will be on November 10 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and will be an English debate. The second debate will be held on December 6 in Moncton, New Brunswick, and […]
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit