Commentary by Jagdeesh Mann in Vancouver
Anyone who has travelled to subcontinent knows it is not always such a salubrious destination. Incredible India, as the country sells itself in tourism brochures, can be incredibly chaotic, unwieldy, hot, dusty, venal, bovinely, and polluted – and then you accidently end up drinking the water.
Given his weakened state since returning to Canada, Canada's Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, has no doubt picked up a severe political bellyache from his recent week-long trip to the country.
In what should have been a soft PR exercise, Sajjan’s first trip to India as Canada’s Defense Minister, has gone from being an electoral victory lap in his birth country to a slog on Ottawa’s apology circuit.
The trip has brought into question his integrity as a leader, diminished his venerated standing before military personnel, and even dulled his image within the Sikh community.
During a speech at the Delhi based Observer Research Foundation security think-tank, Sajjan veered off script and deliberately inserted a line about being ‘the architect’ of Operation Medusa, a large-scale Canadian offensive in Afghanistan in 2006. It was a false statement: in Kandahar, where Sajjan served three tours while a reservist, he was as a mid-level officer providing intelligence to his commanders.
At his first sitting in the House of Commons on Monday, the minister, looked weary from repeating contrition for the battlefield boast, but failed to provide an explanation for it.
"I'm not here to make excuses," he said to the press gallery. "I'm here to acknowledge my mistake, apologize for it, learn from it and continue to serve."
Not since the cameras showed up at Premier Glen Clark’s house, had a BC politician seemed in such desperate need for a foxhole.
It's not unusual for Canadian immigrants to flash their success when they return to their homeland – Sajjan also made a visit to his birth village in the Punjab on this trip. These blingy displays however tend to be exhibited through heavy gold sets and brand name clothing, and not, as in the Minister case, through false claims of military prowess.
Had it been Sajjan’s only embellishment of his operational role, this errant speech could have been written off as typical politician’s self-aggrandizement. However, he also stated this alternative fact in an interview in 2015.
While this controversy has hogged the spotlight back in Canadian media this week, it was not the only trouble spot arising from his first visit back to India in 14 years.
The Minister’s tour, particularly of Punjab, was notably bumpy as the Chief Minister of the state, Captain Amarinder Singh and his cabinet, refused to meet with Sajjan.
Singh alleged that the minister and his father, Kundan Sajjan, a former executive of the World Sikh Organisation (WSO), are both Khalistan sympathisers. At the height of the Punjab conflict in the 1980’s, the WSO espoused the formation of an independent Sikh state.
The allegation against the minister is baseless and seems motivated by Singh’s bitterness at the Trudeau government. The Canadian government did not permit Singh to campaign last year among Canada’s one million-plus South Asians, forcing Singh to cancel the Canadian leg of his North American tour.
The Punjab Chief Minister’s rebuff, however, did little to help Sajjan’s mandate of advancing Canada-India relations, or of re-energising stalled Canada-India free trade talks which were first launched in 2010.
However, Sajjan’s most agonising moments during the week-long trip may have been in his circumspect responses to questions about the Ontario NDP provincial government recently passing legislation recognising the 1984 Delhi killings of Sikhs as an act of genocide. By some counts, as many as 30,000 Sikhs were killed by Hindu mobs in a four-day murderous frenzy.
In 2011, Surrey-Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal was the first federal MP to petition for the recognition of the 1984 killings as an act of genocide, receiving support then from the current Minister of Innovation, Navdeep Bains. Dhaliwal was denied a visa to India in 2011, retribution for him spearheading this motion.
The failure of the Indian government to prosecute the government officials who organised the mobs has been a source of much pain for Sikhs worldwide for the past three decades. Sajjan however distanced himself from the motion.
In a stumbling response, he highlighted it was brought forward by a private member of the Ontario legislature (Harinder Malhi), insinuating the motion was politically motivated during an election year in the province. He further added that this was not his position as a member of the federal Liberal government.
Sikhs who were hopeful Canada’s most recognisable cabinet member would help resolve this long outstanding social justice issue were clearly disappointed in these answers. Left in the wake of Sajjan’s India trip are gnawing questions about how much of his cultivated image as Canada’s ‘badass’ minister, and a comic book hero for justice, is truth and how much is hyperbole.
Afterall, why would he distance himself from a social cause as glaring as the Delhi killings? And why would a veteran break the military code about boasting and take credit for the sacrifices of other soldiers?
After nearly 18 months in office, it seems all we have learned about the first term MP from Vancouver South is that it’s hard to gauge exactly where the soldier ends the politician begins.
Jagdeesh Mann is executive editor of the Asian Pacific Post. This article has been republished under arrangement with the Post.
by BJ Siekierski in Saskatoon
Conservative MP Kellie Leitch proclaimed her “common interests” with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in the party’s first leadership debate Wednesday night, as several of her opponents pushed back against her immigration policy.
“I have common interests with Mr. Trump, screening being one of them,” Leitch said several times, picking up where she left off in a fundraising email Tuesday night that told supporters Trump’s anti-elite message was one she was hoping to bring forward with her own campaign.
A Mainstreet Research telephone poll conducted on November 5 and 6 showed Leitch to be the preferred candidate in the race, with 19 per cent support among Conservative supporters — ahead of Andrew Scheer with 14 and Michael Chong with 12.
Leitch aggressively pushed her wedge issue — screening immigrants for their grasp of “Canadian values” — to draw a sharp contrast with her rivals.
“I will protect our Canadian values,” she told the audience, estimated to be around 500. “I am the only candidate who will require face-to-face interviews of new immigrants and screen for Canadian values.”
As he did earlier Wednesday, Chong pushed back.
“Stephen Harper’s government let in three million immigrants and refugees during the 10 years they were in power. Every single one of those immigrants and refugees was screened for security purposes, terrorism, war crimes, crime against humanity, and for health and economic reasons,” Chong said.
“He would not have let in one of those persons if they had not been properly screened.”
Chong also spoke passionately of his mixed-race children, calling them the “new face of Canada.”
It was Deepak Ohbrai, however — a Tanzania-born Indian-Canadian immigrant and an MP since 1997 — who took Leitch on most directly about her fondness for Trump’s approach to politics.
After saying he didn’t “give two hoots” about a woman wearing a niqab — a controversial subject in the last federal election — he momentarily started trending on Twitter.
“Donald Trump’s divisive policy on immigration and social policies have no room in the Canada that I believe in. Unfortunately one of my colleagues admires Donald Trump, but let me tell you as parliamentary secretary for international human rights, I will not stand for any erosion of any human rights of anybody whether in U.S. or in Canada,” he said.
All twelve official candidates took the stage in Saskatoon in an attempt to appeal to Conservative members. The long list of candidates include former Tory MPs Chris Alexander and Andrew Saxton, physician Daniel Lindsay, and current Conservative MPs Maxime Bernier, Leitch, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Scheer, Brad Trost and Steven Blaney.
Chong touted his economic policy, repeatedly noting that it has been endorsed by four economists. The plan includes income tax cuts and a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which the other candidates all opposed.
Blaney suggested that Chong’s economic ideas are “Liberal.”
“No wonder that the Pembina Institute endorsed your scheme, Michael,” he said. “They endorsed in 2008, in a very kind of same move — the green shift Liberal. That was what it is. They pretended it was revenue-neutral. Well, a tax is a tax is a tax.”
Blaney also attacked Bernier for opposing supply management.
“I like free trade but I love my Canadian milk,” he said. “How can a libertarian oppose a great system that costs zero dollars to taxpayers, (and) offers Canadians quality foods and products at an affordable price.
“Maxime, your plan … it is a disaster blinded by ideology. Why do you finance your campaign on the back of hard working families from our riding who feed our country? Intellectual short cuts.”
Andrew Scheer, who has more caucus support than any of the other candidates, occupied the middle ground, appearing at ease attacking Trudeau’s policies.
He got the best laugh of the night by making fun of himself.
“I will not be taking my shirt off as often as Justin Trudeau does. He may have a yoga body. I have a dad body.”
Raitt, who entered the race just last week, took a folksy approach, referring often to her Cape Breton roots and her experience in Harper’s cabinet.
Erin O’Toole, who served as a Sea King pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, referred to his military experience and told Conservatives that he has a style that allows him to connect with people across the country.
Chris Alexander highlighted the economy in his comments, suggesting that the party struggled in the last election because it lacked “a strong agenda for the new economy.”
Trost said he was the only candidate who encompasses all aspects of the Conservative movement, but failed to mention social Conservative issues, choosing instead to say he doesn’t believe that climate change is caused by humans.
“When I become prime minister, the war on gas and oil and coal is over,” he said.
- With files from Janice Dickson, Stephen Maher, and Kelsey Johnson. Published under arrangement with ipolitics.ca
By Gibril Koroma, Vancouver, Canada.
Somebody recently asked me whether it's okay for a journalist to become a politician and I told them there is absolutely nothing wrong with that; a journalist, a palm wine tapper, a nurse, a doctor, a lawyer, an Okada man or woman and so on can and should become politicians whenever they like as long as they can read and write and understand English which is our official language (a shame because Krio would have been a better official (...)
The Patriotic Vangaurd
By BENJIE OLIVEROS Since the beginning of his campaign for the presidency, Rodrigo Duterte has been accused of disregarding due process, especially with his endorsement of extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals by the so-called Davao death squad. His campaign promise of ending criminality and the drug menace within the first six months into his presidency
The Philippine Reporter
Commentary by Rinaldo Walcott in Toronto
There is widespread consensus that social media has impacted legacy media in a significant way. And, legacy media is fighting back in ways that undermine responsible journalism.
One way the impact has been felt by legacy media (also called "traditional"/"mainstream" media) is that almost everyone can get their opinion out on social media in a way that circumvents news organizations. The proliferation of multiple and different points of views now on offer in both social media and legacy media appear on first instinct to be a good and necessary societal change.
There are more voices and positions to be heard and read.
But, as social media has impacted the public sphere, a growing and dangerous trend has emerged that requires careful thought.
The two sides conundrum
Recently, on a segment of The Current a CBC Radio 1 show, I suggested that the prevalence of ‘two sides to each story’ in media reports needs to be rethought. More specifically, I suggested that the ‘two sides’ method of reporting has become a significant problem while writing about racism, xenophobia, fascism and the far right.
I see it as a problem for telling the story because this kind of reporting legitimates a politics that need not be legitimated.
In western liberal representative democracies, there is consensus that the far right is an illegitimate political position and formation. The consensus supposes that racism, xenophobia, anti-immigrant views, Islamophobia and so on are positions of the far right that must – and rightly so – should be repudiated.
The idea of repudiation is lodged in the history and notion that giving credence to such ideas can and could plunge us back into the sort of abyss marked so powerfully by the Jewish Holocaust in western societies.
And yet, in contemporary media culture, the far right is increasingly presented to us as the ‘other side’ of the argument; as the legitimate other side.
Balancing the story
Why is this a problem?
In my view, to present the far right as the legitimate other side of an argument does two important things: Firstly, it suggests that the far right’s arguments on racism, xenophobia and anti-immigration are legitimate views and arguments that the larger society must grapple with.
Secondly, it suggests that a balanced story is being presented to media consumers.
Indeed, nothing can be further from the truth.
And, furthermore, there are ways to present the arguments of the far right without giving them a platform to further cement their dangerous arguments and potentially recruit others to its anti-human political project
Indeed, one might argue that this kind of ‘two sides’ reporting has aided in the emergence of Marie Le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in the U.K. and Donald Trump in the U.S. All of them are politicians whose views would have been clearly and unequivocally rejected and got no airing in the post-World War II era.
In our historical moment, the re-emergence of a much more public far right requires a necessary and urgent response: a response that does not equivocate in unmasking its hate-filled rhetoric, politics and political formation.
The question is, how do we do this?
I propose that we do this by not giving them a media platform. The way in which we do it is to first present the counter argument. The media has been fairly good at offering the counter argument. So, I will not quibble there too long. Let me instead turn to where the media is failing us.
Shut them down
It appears that the media seems to believe that it must produce far right personalities and voices as the balance to the story. I want to suggest that this is not the right approach.
Those who study the far right and who can speak clearly to their appeal, resurgence, and political formation should constitute the other side of the conversation.
What this means is that debating the far right should be a no-go in our media landscape.
Therefore, those who can help us make sense of the far right’s more public re-emergence in the age of social media should constitute the opposite side of the coin.
Now, some will say we need to hear from them directly, to not censor them, to unmask their hate-filled agenda. Not giving them the public airwaves is not censorship at all.
So, my answer is a blunt, No.
Rinaldo Walcott is Associate Professor and the Director of the Woman and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto.
Read also: Does Facebook Owe Its Users a Public Editor?
Commentary by Michael Adams
Even as most of us are glued to coverage of America’s rancorous presidential election campaign, some Canadians — notably committed Conservatives and New Democrats — now face the task of choosing leaders whose ideas and personal identities will rally current supporters, and even attract some new ones.
Few would disagree with the observation that last fall’s election was about values and leadership. And it will be values and leadership that determine who will lead the two parties currently in the midst of leadership contests — and who will lead the country when the Liberals conclude their current mandate.
In the old days, partisan divides in Canada were said to be about the three Rs: religion (Catholic/Protestant), race (French/English) and region (West/Centre/East). Economic interests that fell outside those categories, like union membership, also mattered.
Today, most of these past drivers of party affiliation are either irrelevant or sporadic in their influence. Contemporary political divides have more to do with personal values than traditional group identities or our positions relative to Marx’s means of production.
To understand the social values of Canadians, Environics has conducted annual surveys of people aged 15 and up since 1983. Earlier this year we surveyed over 4,000 Canadians, tracking 74 social values that illuminate our motivations and mindsets as they relate to our roles as citizens, consumers, workers, family members and spiritual beings.
Affinity for multiculturalism
The data shed interesting light on supporters of Canadian political parties. Although over the years we have come to expect certain patterns to recur in partisans’ values, this year we were amazed at just how closely the values of Liberal and Conservative party supporters lined up with the positions and sensibilities their parties expressed during the fall election campaign.
Liberal supporters score high on values associated with diversity: multiculturalism, flexible definitions of the family and ‘social learning’ (the idea that we’re enriched by contact with people different from ourselves).
These values are accompanied by a strong sense of national pride. In many societies, strong patriotism goes hand in hand with xenophobia: I love my country, and don’t want Others to ruin it. For Canadian Liberals, the combination is quite the opposite: I love my country because different kinds of people can coexist peacefully here. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals embody these values strongly.
But Liberals’ affinity with their party’s current image goes deeper. Liberal voters also scored high on nearly all the values associated with personal style, novelty and originality. Although there is nothing novel about the Liberal party itself, a big part of its leader’s appeal was a sense of generational change and youthful flair. The images of Justin Trudeau sporting colourful socks with a sober suit, doing yoga stunts and posing for selfies might seem superficial to his critics, but these playful, spontaneous gestures resonate with Liberal voters who say they strive for such moments of fun and authentic self-expression in their own lives.
The Conservatives, currently being represented ably by interim leader Rona Ambrose, are the party most likely to dislodge the Liberals at the end of their current mandate (if any party does). Their challenge is to find a leader who embodies Conservative values as effortlessly as Trudeau seems to embody Liberal ones.
The task is not altogether straightforward. Conservatives must find a way to hit the ‘refresh’ button, presenting a new face and approach — without alienating voters who (arguably by definition) have little appetite for change.
Traditional family values
Consider the example of the ‘Traditional Family’ value, which boils down to a belief that a ‘real’ family is a married mom and dad with kids. ‘Traditional Family’ is the single strongest value among those who voted Conservative in the last election. That doesn’t mean that it’s their top priority as a group — but it is the one that distinguishes them most sharply from the national average.
That said, while the other parties remain much more accepting of same-sex marriage overall, Conservatives on average have moved more than anyone else toward acceptance of same-sex marriage over the past decade. This helps to explain the party’s official acceptance of such marriages at its recent convention.
A second tricky value for Conservatives to navigate will be ‘Cultural Assimilation’ — the second strongest Conservative value. This value is the opposite of multiculturalism and registers a belief that it is the duty of immigrants to adopt Canadian customs and values, leaving behind the customs and values of their countries of origin.
One of the great achievements of the Harper government was its success in attracting immigrant voters. Their strong disavowal of anti-immigrant messages yielded rewards at the ballot box. When Harper’s team changed course — most notoriously through Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander’s so-called ‘Barbaric Cultural Practices Hotline’ — they suffered.
The hotline episode gives a hint of the Conservatives’ dilemma on this file. They cannot alienate the foreign-born population that represents more than a fifth of Canadians — including many voters favourably disposed to both fiscally and socially conservative ideas. Nor can they alienate the portions of their base who are driving the high scores on Cultural Assimilation and who would be drawn to, if not a Canadian Trump, then perhaps a Canadian Cameron or Sarkozy.
Conservatives tend to stand out in their support for traditional social structures: religion, father-led families and hierarchical organizational models. Conservative MPs’ recent efforts to block the introduction of gender-neutral language into the national anthem was a smart way to channel supporters’ sentiments, combining a belief in both traditional patriarchal authority and a desire to simply leave existing rituals well enough alone. For them, the fact that something is traditional — regardless of the content of the tradition — holds value in itself.
Conservatives also stand out in their fear of violence; they are more uneasy than average about the threat of violence in the world, including in their own neighbourhoods at night. Conservatives also believe disproportionately in virtues like duty and a work ethic: They believe people must shoulder their responsibilities with stoicism, not indulge themselves.
After a decade of his leadership, most Canadians and many Conservatives were ready to turn the page on Stephen Harper. But whatever false notes he hit, the former PM did a good job of embodying Conservative ideas and, importantly, conservative sensibilities.
He didn’t pretend to be fun. He worked hard and, except for a rare turn at the piano, met public life with dutiful seriousness. He did nothing if not lead an orderly, hierarchical team governed by extreme loyalty and deference. He admired all manner of traditional institutions and symbols, from the military to the monarchy.
The fact that the core values that most differentiate Liberals and Conservatives revolve around orientation to the family and social diversity is both fascinating and meaningful. We are not talking here about the usual fodder for our day-to-day policy debates: medicare, infrastructure, carbon pricing, equalization payments. Instead, values data reveal divergent orientations towards our most fundamental institution — the family — and towards the accommodation of diversity as expressed in culture and sexual orientation.
In the data’s portrait of Liberals, who have been the primary custodians of the progressive values of the country over the past 50 years (often nudged along by the NDP), you see a continuing openness to social change: support for the equality of women and those of various sexual orientations and gender identities, and acceptance — even embrace — of immigration and ethno-cultural diversity.
As the Conservative party selects its next leader, it will need to find someone who can speak to the Canadians who drive their party’s high scores on Traditional Family and Cultural Assimilation without alienating the young, urban, highly educated voters whose social and political clout can only be expected to grow. And as for tone — for the time being Canadians (unlike our American and European cousins) seem to be insisting on civility and cooperation.
Perhaps the next Conservative leader will tackle the next election by fighting sunshine with sunshine — and by finding a way to celebrate Canada Day as enthusiastically as Remembrance Day.
Michael Adams is founder and president of the Environics Institute for Survey Research.
Published under arrangement with iPolitics.ca
A study led by SFU Masters of Public Policy (MPP) student Halena Seiferling found that the biggest barrier for women entering politics at the municipal level is persistent sexism and gendered comments.
“Though many people may assume that municipal politics is more welcoming to women, this study shows that problems persist even at the municipal level,” says Seiferling. “My research advocates for municipalities to have equal numbers of men and women on their advisory committees and boards in order to begin to combat this problem.”
by Alireza Ahmadian in Vancouver, British Columbia
Identity determines how we value ourselves and how others perceive us. Its significance has increased with globalization, migration and technological advancements. Many people today consider themselves to have multiple identities, while others are happy with a single identifier.
In The Relevance of Islamic Identity in Canada: Culture, Politics, and Self, a book edited by Nurjehan Aziz, 12 authors grapple with the idea of Islamic identity in Canada.
Panel discussions on the book have been held throughout Canada, including in Vancouver.
The book documents the everyday lives of several Canadian Muslims. Some authors write about their own experiences, others about the Muslim community in Canada. Some essays are written in an academic style, while others are personal narratives.
Islam in post-Harper Canada
Almost every chapter criticizes the government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for “targeting” or “scapegoating” Muslims for political gain.
Haroon Siddiqui’s chapter, “Anti-Muslim Bigotry Goes Official — Canada’s Newest Dark Chapter,” deals with the experiences of Muslims under the Harper government.
He presents a list of what he calls “Islamophobic” actions, speeches, policies or legislation undertaken by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, immigration ministers Chris Alexander and Jason Kenney, and other Conservative members of Parliament and senators.
Authors debate Muslim identity
In some instances, one author in the book responds to the concerns or questions raised by another. Safia Fazlul says she “lives on the fringe of being ‘somewhat liberal Canadian’ and ‘somewhat conservative Muslim South Asian.’”
Her inability and unwillingness to live strictly in one category led her to be discriminated against and excluded by “both liberal and secular Canadians and traditional Muslim Canadians.” People do not accept her even though she is comfortable with her multiple identities.
Ameen Merchant, on the other hand, raises a valid point about subjectivity and somewhat ignores the opinions of others about his relationship with Islam.
“My sense of Muslim identity may not be another’s definition of what a Muslim ought to be and it also may not be in line with scripture and sacred text,” he writes. "Then again, my subjectivity is also not anyone else’s. It is multifarious absorbent, and always subject to change. And it is my own.”
Mohamed Abualy Alibhai’s suggestion that Muslims in North America “abandon the belief in the verbal revelation of the Qur'an,” mirrors arguments raised by activist and author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, mainly that the literal understanding of the Qur'an must be “reformed or discarded.”
Furthermore, Alibhai advocates for a conscience-based Islamic denomination, as if it does not exist. However, a look at Karim H. Karim’s chapter illustrates how Aga Khan, the Imam or spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, has been doing what Alibhai argues is needed.
“The Islamic leader presents the concepts of ethics, democracy, development, meritocracy, pluralism and quality of life as some of the ‘brides that unite’ ways of understanding that are religious and secular,” writes Karim about Aga Khan.
The Ismaili leader’s ideas of the Qur'an underlie his discourse, but he rarely makes overt religious references in his speeches.
At the same time, Alibhai is dismissive of Muslim reformist thinkers who reinterpret the Islamic texts to accommodate the realities of modern life. Monia Mazigh’s chapter, for example, illustrates how Islamic discourses can be invoked to disprove the notion of men’s perceived superiority over women.
Interpreting modern Islam
There are different ways to convince different people of the same issue. You can argue that robbery is socially unacceptable, morally reprehensible, illegal, or against your religion. Each one of those arguments is valid depending on the audience. The argument based on religion is more appealing to a religious person.
In the same vein, we need Muslim reformist thinkers to use Islam to fight against radical interpretations of the religion.
Some of the authors identify as “inconsistent Muslim” or “cultural Muslim,” however, we do not see a representation from an “observant Muslim” – those who may imprecisely be called conservative or traditional Muslims.
These are the proud Canadian Muslims who follow all Islamic laws and traditions and believe that they can also be civically engaged Canadians.
Furthermore, three of the authors are of Arab origin and the rest are South Asian. The Muslim community in Canada is much more diverse and the overwhelming majority of them are not represented in this book.
Overall, Aziz’s book is a success as it represents a segment of an underrepresented group of Canadian citizens: Muslims who are spoken, about but rarely given the chance to speak for themselves.
Alireza Ahmadian is a Vancouver-based writer and researcher. He has a Masters of Arts in International Affairs and Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has appeared on BBC World News and BBC Persian to discuss world affairs and is published on online forums such as New Canadian Media, BBC, and foreign policy blogs.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Danica Samuel in Toronto
“Just because you’ve fallen off ship doesn’t mean you’re drowning.”
In the film My Internship in Canada, the person struggling to stay afloat is the politician who fails to please everyone. Oscar-nominated director Philippe Falardeau’s film is a satirical, yet eye-opening, take on Canadian politics that showcases just how non-democratic our government can be.
For National Canadian Film Day on April 20, charitable organization Samara Canada collaborated with the Regent Park Film Festival to fill a Cineplex movie theatre in downtown Toronto for Falardeau’s political comedy.
The film is based on the journey of a young Haitian man, Souverain Pascal, played by Irdens Exantus, who greatly admires Canadian politics and culture. He gets a response to his 15-page application and secures an internship with a Northern Quebec member of Parliament (MP).
Steve Guibord, played by Patrick Huard, is the independent MP for Prescott-Makadew à Rapides-aux-Outardes and unwillingly finds himself in the awkward position of holding the decisive vote on whether Canada will go to war.
Guibord travels across his riding to consult constituents with his wife, daughter and Pascal. The story escalates when groups of lobbyists get involved in a debate that spins out of control. In the end, Guibord is tugged and pulled in various directions and must face his own conscience to make a decision that could affect the entire country.
Making politics accessible
Newcomers to Canada and members of the Toronto communities of North York and Lotherton were among those who attended.
“We thought it was a great opportunity to provide a little bit of education behind Canada’s political system, in a fun way,” said Madison Van West, coordinator of the Democracy Talks program at North York Community House (NYCH). She worked with her colleagues to bring 75 people to the screening from NYCH, which provides civic engagement and community development services to newcomers.
“Sometimes politics isn’t the most accessible topic, but a movie screening is a great way to bring everyone together and learn more.”
In the film, Guibord tries to initiate democracy by inviting members of his community to a town hall. Unfortunately, opposing viewpoints cause tension rather than a conversation that leads to a collaborative decision. The scene shows just how messy democracy can be.
NYCH program manager Zesta Kim said she understands and has witnessed the hardships politicians face in her community when having to weigh several interests to create an all-inclusive environment.
“We’ve seen them try to create platforms and implement mechanisms to be open and democratic, but in doing that, anyone can speak and say anything,” she explains. “So, sometimes it doesn’t turn out too well.”
Falsification of equality
In the film, Guibord has trouble balancing the interests of his wife, daughter, protesters, the mayor, and the prime minister. He can only rely on Pascal to help find a middle ground that stays true to Canadian culture and democracy.
In a panel discussion held after the screening, emerging filmmaker Amita Zamaan said these competing special interests are what disappoint and deter people from engaging in Canadian politics.
She added that the disengagement is due to the lack of representation and the falsification of equality in our government.
Through her web series, Dhaliwal15, Zamaan, like Falardeau, approaches politics through satire when examining the lack of diversity in Canadian politics.
“We haven’t seen a representation of minorities in politics and in Parliament,” she said. “I’m trying to address that issue by placing this fictional character (Bobby Dhaliwal, played by Jasmeet Singh) in my film, but also addressing how limited our discussions in Canada are on progressive issues.”
Explaining voter apathy
Another panel member, Algoma-Manitoulin member of provincial Parliament (MPP), Michael Mantha, said the problem is deeper than just having an open platform to discuss. He said there is a lack of interest from community members.
“I’ve being trying to engage with people throughout my riding, to try and get a pulse on what needs to be discussed for better engagement,” Mantha said.
“Going off the numbers in my area, last election there was a 51 per cent voter turnout. People have look at politicians, their decisions, and their actions and think, ‘Why am I going to get involved if they’re not listening to me?’” he added.
Mantha, who was elected in 2011, has served two consecutive terms as MPP and said while he loves all aspects of his riding, from its environment to its citizens, he is well aware of the tactics that are often involved in getting politicians to make certain decisions.
“Individuals are put into difficult positions, but again it comes down to that person’s principles and being responsible to the people that put you into that position,” he said. “However you make your decision, you will have to put your head on your pillow and live with your conscience.”
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
by Amanda Connolly in Ottawa
The level of trust Canadians have in the federal government is at its highest point since EKOS Research began measuring the key indicator 17 years ago, a new survey shows.
According to the poll, which surveyed 1,176 Canadian adults over the age of 18 on April 14th and 15th, 44 per cent said they “almost always” or “most of the time” trust the new Trudeau government in Ottawa to do what is right, compared to roughly 30 per cent who said the same before the October election, when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were in power, and a low of 22 per cent in fall 2014.
That 44 per cent is the highest number tracked since EKOS began asking “the trust question” in 1990 and is the highest level measured previous to that by Gallup since the mid-1970s.
The poll was conducted more than three weeks after the Liberal government’s first budget, which was tabled on March 22 and reflected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s major, controversial, election promise of deficit spending to stimulate economic growth.
The current numbers also reflect that 53 per cent of respondents say they trust the government only some of the time or almost never, down from a six-year high of 76 per cent in August 2014 and just over 60 per cent in October 2015.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
“It’s really quite surprising to see the amount of bouyancy in that number with the current government,” said EKOS pollster Frank Graves. “I would have guessed it would go up but I would not have guessed it would go up that much or that it would have persisted for several months.”
According to EKOS Research numbers, the number of Canadians who said they trust the government to do what is right dropped consistently during the 1970s and 1980s, reaching a low of roughly 20 per cent in 1990.
That time period encompassed the terms of former prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, John Turner and Brian Mulroney, with trust levels beginning a slow climb again during the end years of Mulroney and the governments of Kim Campbell and Jean Chretien.
However, starting in 2000 that number became sharply more volatile than in years of the past, rising and dropping during the tumultuous end of Jean Chretien’s tenure and the entirety of Paul Martin’s government, before rising sharply and falling equally sharply between the time Stephen Harper came into and left office.
At the same time, the number of Canadians who say they believe the country is heading in the right direction may be levelling out to post-election norms.
Between April 2015 and October 2015, the number of respondents who said the country was heading in the right direction ranged from between 39 and 50 per cent, while those who said the country was heading in the wrong direction were between 49 and 62 per cent.
In January 2016, just three months after the election, those both reached their respective peaks: roughly 69 per cent said the country is heading in the right direction while roughly 32 per cent said the opposite.
Those post-election reactions appear to be moderating, with 55.2 per cent of respondents saying the country is heading in the right direction compared to 37.5 per cent who say the opposite.
The number of respondents who said the Government of Canada is heading in the right direction — and those who say the opposite — down slightly from where they were in January, with 60 per cent saying the government is heading in the right direction and 33 per cent saying it is heading in the wrong direction.
Given the recent post-oil crash economic turmoil in the country, that’s unusual, says Graves.
“That’s paradoxical because often a very poor economy has a corrosive impact on the public’s sense of whether the government’s moving in the right direction,” he said. “In this case, we don’t see that. We see the opposite. But that patience will not be infinite.”
Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit