Will virtual body swapping reduce racism in America?

Interesting series of experiments, that take the Implicit Association Test increased mindfulness to a new level:

There are at least two ways to walk from Harlem to Soho: as a white person, and as a black person. With research on “virtual body swapping,” in which participants use a virtual reality headset to enter a body of different race, Americans can wear both pairs of shoes.

“In Harlem, they’ll see the sheer volume of police standing on a corner on just your average Saturday afternoon,” says Courtney Cogburn, an assistant professor of social work at Columbia University. Although white participants might have noticed the police anyway, their experiences as black avatars will make them better understand “the racism that’s in the air,” she says. “It’s ambient.”

Beginning in September, and partnering with Stanford University in a $250,000 research project, Cogburn will equip white people with a virtual reality headset and motion tracking suit. Participants, including supporters of Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, will operate a black avatar as they walk through a virtual New York City, hopefully better understanding systemic racism. Given the recent shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, in which two white police officers each killed black citizens, Cogburn says this intervention “could certainly be applied to police.” Despite the retaliation in Dallas, where black protestors killed five white officers, the research will not introduce black people into virtual white bodies.

Cogburn’s team will be the first to take virtual body-swappers into a virtual real-world setting, she says. Since 2009, Stadford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab has put body-swappers in a neutral setting, where they operate avatars of different races and simply look around a room. The goal has been to improve empathy. After just this five-minute experience, participants showed less white preference on an implicit association test, which measures how they associate words such as “love” and “evil” with race.

Body-swapping has proven more effective than simply imagining oneself as another race. In fact, when Stanford researchers asked students to imagine a day in the life of a black person, including attending a job interview, these participants afterward showed more white preference because they had imagined, or “activated,” stereotypes. In similar research related to age, Stanford has gotten participants to virtually enter older versions of themselves, reducing ageism and increasing motivation for financial planning.

Europeans have also used body-swapping to boost empathy between races. Mel Slater, a computer science professor specializing in virtual environments at the University of London, explains that white participants in a neutral setting quickly identify with their virtual black avatars. “People don’t go, ‘Wow, I’ve got a black body!’” he says. “They just take it. It just is … The most interesting thing is that nothing interesting happens.”

Virtual body-swapping works by tricking the participant’s brain into viewing the avatar as itself. “The brain doesn’t like uncertainty or confusion,” says Slater. “It tries to come up with answers. The simplest thing it can come up with is that it’s my body.” Slater’s team found that the empathy isn’t just temporary. One week after the body swap, participants maintained lower white preference scores, and Slater expects the effect might last even longer.

The ethics of changing people’s mindsets are unclear. Slayter says virtual body-swapping could be incorporated into games that are designed for general employee or police training. Ideally, white participants would have black avatars, unaware of the intent to increase empathy. “It’s better if the purpose isn’t explicit,” says Slater. However, “if they’re surreptitiously altering people’s attitudes, people would find ethical problems with that.”

Virtual reality holds other limitations. It can make people dizzy, and Slater doesn’t recommend it for children under age 13, as neurologists don’t yet understand how it might affect developing brains. Some say citizens could better develop empathy by spending time with real people of other races, rather than playing around with avatars. Further, in video games, the assignment of racialized avatars has proven to worsen prejudice. When the developers of a game called Rust randomly assigned white players to have black avatars, gamers posted racist rants on blogs, with one declaring, “if I’m black I’m asking for a refund.”

Cogburn says virtual body-swapping can supplement efforts to build real-world bridges, as many Americans don’t naturally spend time with people of other races. She says the real-world setting won’t worsen prejudice because the purpose of her project is to help people recognize racism, not necessarily feel it. “I’m still questioning whether empathy is the goal or if it really is possible,” she says. “What might be more important is to try to understand [racism].” Participants will have nothing at stake, not even points in a video game, as they walk through New York City—its neighbourhoods, its prejudices and its police officers. “It’s a vicarious observation of these things,” says Cogburn. “It’s not actually happening to you, and that’s the point.”

Can immigrants be told where they must live in Canada?

Interesting arguments by Michael Barutciski. While location incentives are one thing, not sure that creating a new type of temporary foreign worker with a location condition is feasible from an operational perspective.

Curious to see what kind of response this generates from other commentators:

Can the government legally require some immigrants to settle in small towns and rural areas?

We do not have the answer for the simple reason that our courts have not been asked to deal with this question and how it is affected by the relevant Charter subsection. If it is determined that such a limitation is indeed a violation of mobility rights, then it would have to pass what is known as the Oakes test.

The federal government would have to show there is a pressing and substantial objective in settling some immigrants in small towns and rural areas. Mr. McCallum’s statements so far suggest he is taking an economic perspective that emphasizes business concerns about labour shortages in remote areas. Courts would likely consider this a justifiable purpose.

Similarly, the actual restrictions imposed on these newcomers would have to limit their mobility rights as little as is reasonably possible. Courts would have to be convinced that the benefits of the measure outweigh the seriousness of the infringement.

The fact that the limitation would be temporary (for the duration of the immigrant visa, for example) would help the government’s case. And by structuring the immigrant-selection criteria in a way that grants more points for applicants willing to work in small towns or rural areas, it could also be presented as one option among many available to potential immigrants, who could otherwise apply under the regular economic stream. In other words, the limitation accepted voluntarily by some immigrants would be balanced by the fact that their choice would give them a better chance of obtaining permanent resident status.

Along with clarifying the constitutional question around mobility rights, the policy could play an important role in reinforcing the notion that immigration is not only about the personal well-being and advancement of foreign applicants, but also about the needs of the receiving country.

This latter point is crucial in securing public support for any increase in admissions envisioned by Mr. McCallum. Canadians will naturally be more supportive if they believe new arrivals are helping their huge country with its specific challenges involving underpopulated regions and demographic distribution.

Two of Canada’s main competitors for skilled immigrants, Australia and New Zealand, provide incentives to encourage immigrants to find employment outside large urban centres. If such an approach with bonus points in the selection criteria is not possible in Canada given its constitutional protections, then a new category of temporary workers (who would not be covered by the Charter’s mobility clause) could be created that would include geographic conditions and that would benefit from a more direct pathway to permanent resident status once the conditions were fulfilled.

Canada would be well served if Mr. McCallum were to champion the idea that some control on where immigrants settle is reasonable, in order to secure public support for immigration to this geographically challenging country.

Source: Can immigrants be told where they must live in Canada? – The Globe and Mail

Extremist literature common in many mosques and Islamic school libraries in Canada, study says

Old story, but one that raises interesting issues:

One year ago, the Senate defence and security committee issued a report saying some foreign-trained imams had been spreading extremist religious ideology and messages that are not in keeping with Canadian values, contributing to radicalization.

The committee has urged the government to explore imam training and certification in an effort help curb radicalization, one of 25 recommendations it made in the interim anti-terrorism report.

When the report was released, an Ottawa imam, Mohamad Jebara, raised questions about its key recommendation.

“Who is going to do the certifying?” asked Jebara. “Islam is so diverse, like many religions. So what sect or school of thought are you going to certify?

“It is extremely complex,” he said. “It’s like having certification for Christian clergy. The question is: Would the Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons agree on requirements for certification? Obviously not.”

Targeting Muslim clergy exclusively could backfire, said Jebara, and result in further marginalizing Muslims.

The committee report called on the government to work with the provinces and Muslim communities to “investigate the options that are available for the training and certification of imams in Canada.”

The report was not supported by Liberal senators on the committee. It was denounced by the National Council of Canadian Muslims as stigmatizing and failing to offer effective solutions to the challenge of violent extremism.

Source: Extremist literature common in many mosques and Islamic school libraries in Canada, study says

Feds reviewing inland refugee system, under pressure to scrap ‘safe countries’ list

Another issue to watch in terms of how the Liberal government finds a balance between maintaining the integrity of refugee determination and rights of refugee claimants:

The Liberal government is re-evaluating the way it treats refugee claimants who ask for protection after arriving in Canada, but won’t say whether it will scrap some of the widely criticized restrictions on some refugee claimants brought in by the previous government.

Government officials met with refugee advocacy groups and researchers July 14 to gather suggestions on what to do with Canada’s asylum system, which is used to process applications for refugee status by people who have already arrived in the country. People brought in from refugee camps abroad are processed in a different way. In 2014-15, the tribunal that decides on refugee claims in Canada was referred 13,500 claims, and the next year that creeped up to 16,500.

The government’s controversial Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) list was one of the key topics of the July 14 meeting, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

The DCO or “safe countries” list was created by the previous Conservative government, and includes countries that, according to the government, do not usually produce legitimate refugees. The list—which currently includes 42 countries—was designed to “ensure that people in need get protection fast, while those with unfounded claims are sent home quickly through expedited processing,” says the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada website.

However, an internal IRCC audit released this summer found that DCO claims had not been processed faster than those from other countries, leading NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) to question what the point of the system was.

The Liberals promised during the election campaign to set up an “expert human rights panel” to determine which countries should fall on the DCO list. Since the Liberals came to power, the government has said little about how it will fulfill this promise, and IRCC and the office of Immigration Minister John McCallum (Markham-Thornhill, Ont.) declined to provide details when asked.

The promise of an expert panel wasn’t good enough to satisfy critics of the DCO list, such as the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) or Canadian Council for Refugees. CARL wrote in a brief submitted to the government in July that a human rights panel “cannot cure what is, at root, a discriminatory regime, introduced into the legislation for discriminatory purposes,” a sentiment Ms. Dench said was echoed by many in the July 14 consultation.

“There was a very clear message to the government from everybody that the designated-country-of-origin policy was not useful, was not credible, was not serving any purpose and was contrary to the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms],” she said.

 Critics say the DCO system kneecaps claimants from listed countries because they’re rushed through the process. They also say so-called safe countries may in fact be quite dangerous, at least to some persecuted groups or in some areas.

When asked a series of questions about the DCO system and the establishment of the expert panel, IRCC spokesperson Remi Lariviere wrote in an emailed statement that the government was considering how to make Canada’s asylum system “more fair and timely,” in part as a response to this summer’s consultations on the immigration system and to the IRCC internal audit, which identified several concerns with the system’s fairness and efficiency.

The Liberal party had also promised on the campaign trail to provide a right for claimants from DCO countries to appeal decisions by the Immigration and Refugee Board, an arm’s-length tribunal, a right they had been denied under the system set up by the Conservatives. The Liberal government has already fulfilled that promise by dropping a legal challenge initiated under the previous government to a Federal Court ruling last year, which held that the ban on appeals by DCO claimants was unconstitutional.

Department finds ‘need to reform’ system

The previous Conservative government overhauled the inland refugee system in 2012, after a rising number of refugee claims, few of which were accepted and many of which stemmed from countries the government of the day perceived to be generally safe, such as Mexico and Hungary. Canada had also recently seen two ships arrive on its shores with dozens of migrants from Sri Lanka who claimed asylum.

The IRCC conducted an audit of its asylum system at the instruction of the Treasury Board, which had committed to a review of the program three years after major reforms by the Conservative government. The audit covered the period from December 2012 to December 2014. In addition to a number of positive findings about the way the asylum system was operating, it identified a series of shortcomings in Canada’s asylum system, including that DCO claimants were not processed faster than non-DCO claimants.

The audit also found “a need to reform the in-Canada asylum system due to the increasing number of claims, growing backlogs/inventories, and lengthy processing times,” and that “failed claimants are not being removed in a timely manner.”

Source: The Hill Times

Jailing Jihadis for Destroying Treasures – The Daily Beast

Appropriately, this trial and verdict are getting considerable attention:

The monsters of al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State probably never will be held to account the way the Nazis were at the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II. The snarled red tape and convoluted politics of today’s international organizations will frustrate such grand designs for justice, even after the self-proclaimed “caliphate” is reduced to dust on the ground and unread footnotes in history.

But the trial going on at the International Criminal Court in The Hague this week gives us a hint of what can be done, and, indeed, what must be done.

The defendant, Ahmad al Faki al Mahdi, served the branch of al Qaeda in North Africa that very nearly took over all of the nation of Mali in 2012, until French troops intervened. The terrorists’ greatest prize was the ancient city of Timbuktu, al Mahdi’s hometown, and he did everything he could to show he supported his fanatical mentors’ gruesome diktats.

But al Mahdi is not on trial for the amputations, beheadings, torture, and rapes associated with the “holy war” waged by al Qaeda, ISIS, and their offshoots.

Al Mahdi is on trial for massacring history.

We have seen a lot of savage iconoclasm over the last 15 years. In 2001, the Taliban brought down the towering twin statues of Buddha in Bamayan, Afghanistan—a prelude to the operation by their allies in al Qaeda, who brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York only a few months later.

More recently we’ve seen the devastation wrought by ISIS on the ancient monuments of Nimrud in Iraq, and those of Palmyra in Syria: winged bulls turned to gravel with jack-hammers, the Temple of Baal erased from the map with high explosives.

These would-be holy warriors claim to have a direct line to God, a unique and exclusive understanding of His Truth. They are determined to destroy anyone and anything that does not fit their view, and they do all this in the name of Islam.

So it is worth noting that al Mahdi is on trial, specifically, for leveling the mausoleums of Muslim saints in a city that was one of the cradles of Islamic civilization, and that the prosecutor who leveled the charges against al Mahdi in court on Monday, Fatouh Bensouda, is a Gambian woman from a large Muslim family. She knows where this guy is coming from, which may account in part for the power and passion of her opening statement.

This trial, said Bensouda, is about answering “the destructive rages that mark our times, in which humanity’s common heritage is subject to repeated and planned ravages.”

The mausoleums al Mahdi destroyed were “the embodiment of Malian history, captured in tangible form, from an era long gone yet still very much vivid in the memory and pride of the people who so dearly cherished them.”

“Your honors,” Bensouda told the judges, “culture is who we are.”

Bensouda has been criticized for failing to make the ICC a new Nuremberg. But the criteria she has to work with are suffocating and contradictory.

The court has no jurisdiction over territories where the government is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the court in 1998. So the court has no territorial jurisdiction over the ISIS heartland that straddles Iraq and Syria, neither of which signed on.

Port du burkini: un débat futile, selon Trudeau

Not covered in English media unless I missed it: PM Trudeau’s comments on the burkini debate in Quebec, framing diversity as not merely as tolerance but rather as “acceptance, openness, friendship and understanding:”

Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau juge futile le débat qui commence à faire rage au Québec sur le port du burkini à la plage.

À l’instar du premier ministre du Québec Philippe Couillard, la semaine dernière, M. Trudeau cachait mal son irritation lundi, à l’issue d’une retraite de deux jours de son cabinet à Sudbury, de voir que certains tentent de lancer un tel débat au pays.

«Il y a des pays dans le monde où la tolérance serait essentielle. (…)  Mais je pense qu’au Canada, on devrait être rendu au-delà de la tolérance. Tolérer quelqu’un, c’est accepter qu’ils aient le droit d’exister, mais à condition qu’ils ne viennent pas nous déranger trop, trop chez-nous, là », a d’abord déclaré M. Trudeau au cours d’une conférence de presse.

« Au Canada, est-ce qu’on pourrait pas parler d’acceptation, d’ouverture, d’amitié, de compréhension ? C’est vers là que nous allons et c’est ce que l’on est en train de vivre à tous les jours quand on voit nos communautés diverses et riches, pas en dépit de leurs différences, mais bien grâce à ces différences », a ajouté le M. Trudeau.

En France, des municipalités ont décidé d’interdire le port du burkini à la plage, provoquant un vif débat en Europe sur le respect des droits de la personne. Ce débat a eu des échos au Québec, notamment à l’Assemblée nationale, où la Coalition avenir Québec a pressé le gouvernement de Philippe Couillard d’emboîter le pas aux municipalités françaises qui ont choisir d’interdire ce vêtement de plage.

 Vendredi dernier, le premier ministre Philippe Couillard a opposé une fin de non recevoir catégorique à cette demande de la CAQ. « «Je ne peux pas croire qu’on en est là», a laissé tomber M. Couillard.«L’État n’a rien à voir avec la façon [dont] les femmes se vêtent sur les plages».

Devant les journalistes, lundi, M. Trudeau a rappelé aux élus, peu importe où ils siègent, qu’ils ont le devoir d’élever le débat public et de s’assurer de respecter les droits de la personne.

« Oui, il va y avoir des petites controverses ici et là comme toujours. Mais pour moi le respect des droits et des choix des individus doit occuper la première place dans notre discours et dans nos débats », a affirmé M. Trudeau, a-t-il dit.

Garbage in, garbage out: Canada’s big data problem

A reminder that despite the restoration of the Census, there still remain significant gaps in the collection, methodologies and dissemination of statistical data by the government:

In a recent article in the Toronto Star, Paul Wells lays out what he sees as Prime Minister Trudeau’s game plan for slowing Canada’s brain drain and making science pay. “Over the next year,” he writes, “the Trudeau government will seek to reinforce or shore up Canada’s advantage in three emerging fields: quantum tech, artificial intelligence and big data and analytics.”

As he should. If that’s the plan, it’s a good one. Canada’s future prosperity depends on our ability to innovate and retain the best talent in those three fields.

What we call “big data analytics” works by finding previously unknown patterns in the huge blocks of data that very large organizations — governments, for example — grow around themselves constantly, like coral. Finding those patterns can point the way to new efficiencies, new ways to fight crime and disease, new trends in business. But as with any complex system, what you get depends on what you put in. If the inputs aren’t accurate, the results won’t be, either. So before we embrace the “big data revolution”, we may want to look first at the worsening quality of the data our federal government produces, and that businesses, activists and social planners use.

Take something as basic as divorce. Statistics Canada first started reported marriage rates in 1921, divorce rates in 1972; it stopped collecting both data streams in 2011, citing “cost” concerns.

Marriage and divorce rates are exactly the kinds of data streams consumers of big data want collected, because they affect so many things: government policies, job markets, the service sector, housing starts — you name it. Having abandoned the field now for five years, StatsCan’s data volume on marital status isn’t nearly as useful as it might have been.

Take wildlife conservation. Recently an Ontario provincial backbencher proposed a private members bill to allow for unlimited hunting of cormorants. The bill’s proponent says the species is experiencing a population explosion. And we don’t know if he’s right or wrong — because the feds stopped collecting that data in 2011.

open quote 761b1bCanada used to publish statistical reports that were every bit as good as the Americans’ — in some cases, better. Then we stopped.

Here’s another big data blind spot: gasoline imports. After having reported data on gasoline imports regularly since 1973, StatsCan has been suppressing the numbers since 2013 due to what it calls “privacy” concerns. In the last reporting year, 2012, a staggering amount of imported gasoline came into the country — almost 4 billion litres.

Now, if you were thinking of expanding your oil refinery, or wanted to know more about how dependent this country is on foreign fuel, this would be pretty precious data — the kind you’d probably pay for. But the data aren’t reliable — any more than the StatsCan data on gasoline demand by province, which we use to work out whether carbon taxes are actually reducing demand for gasoline. It’s bad data; it has been for years. You’d think someone in the higher echelons of the federal or provincial governments would get annoyed.

Combing through StatsCan’s archive of reports can be a bewildering experience, even for experts. Its online database, CANSIM, is easy enough to use. It’s the reports themselves that sometimes fail you.

Say you want to understand trends in Ontario’s demand for natural gas. You’d start by looking at CANSIM table 129-0003, which shows an increase in sales of natural gas in 2007 over 2006 of 85 per cent. “Ah,” you think to yourself, “that must be because of the conversion of coal-burning plants to gas.” But no, that change occurred years later. Ask StatsCan and they’ll tell you that they changed their methodology that year — but didn’t bother re-stating the previous years’ numbers under the same methodology. Individually, the numbers are accurate — but the trend stops making sense.

StatsCan changed its methodology again this year; it now warns researchers to take care when comparing current and historical data. That’s an improvement over changing the methodology without telling anyone but it isn’t very helpful for understanding long-term trends.

And this isn’t just StatsCan’s problem. The National Energy Board published an excellent report showing where Canada’s crude ends up in the United States. Industry analysts use the numbers to understand the reasons why light and heavy crude are selling for what they’re selling for south of the border.

The NEB stopped reporting the data after September 2015. Ask why, and this is the response you get: “The Board has decided to discontinue publication of this data while we re-evaluate our statistical products.” That, of course, was a year ago.

Source: Garbage in, garbage out: Canada’s big data problem

My Parents’ Mixed Messages on the Holocaust – The New York Times

Good long read on the lessons of the Holocaust as told by Jason Staley whose parents escaped. Nicely nuanced:

My parents explained to me that these pasts meant that they were not Holocaust survivors. My mother told me that in her labor camp, they were hungry, they were put to work, but no one was shooting or gassing them. When they went back to Poland, it was hard, and Jews were hated. But this, she explained, was the fate of Jews. Anti-Semitism was a permanent feature of the world, not special to the Holocaust.

My father’s reaction to describing him as a Holocaust survivor was more severe. He angrily questioned my motivations. Was I seeking a special status as a victim? He urged me to reflect about how offensive this is to those who have to actually live under oppression. He argued powerfully against the stance of the victim. It was morally dangerous, he said, using the actions of Israelis and Palestinians toward one another as an example. He was scornful when he saw signs that I was taking the Holocaust to mean that Jews were special. “If the Germans had chosen someone else,” he often said, “we would have been the very best Nazis.”

Most frequently and passionately, he would reprimand me for taking the Holocaust to be about me, or about my family. The Holocaust was about humanity. It was about what we are capable of doing to one another. It could happen again, it could happen here. The Holocaust was about everyone. Helping to prevent such events from occurring required agency and good moral sense, and good moral sense was not consistent with preferring one’s own people.

My mother’s most frequent advice was about knowing when to get out of a dangerous situation. The moment where one must accept that a situation is genuinely dangerous is usually well past the time when one can exit it. Her advice would come out especially during any patriotic moment. She was afraid I would develop an attachment to a country and would not flee early enough.

My mother and father both believed that normal people could do unimaginably terrible things. As a court stenographer in criminal court, my mother witnessed the racial injustice of the American legal system up close. I remember her sometime in the late 1980s saying to me with a rather flat affect, “They are targeting black people in this country.” That didn’t mean she was about to march out on the street in protest of injustice. That would be a completely incorrect interpretation of my mother. My mother believes that injustice is the normal, unchangeable state of things. My mother believes trust is foolishness. She thinks it is not only naïve to live as if justice were an attainable ideal; it is self-destructive. My mother believes they will kill you if they can.

My father was always critical of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, convinced that the establishment of the state of Israel was implicated in the horrors of colonialism. He was equally abhorrent of Palestinian violence toward Israeli citizens. I grew up hearing other American Jews speak of Palestinians in pre-genocidal ways; that Palestinians have always wanted to kill the Jews, and must therefore be kept locked away and controlled. Regular exposure to such talk has made me permanently afraid for the safety of the Palestinian people. Comparisons between Israeli treatment of Palestinians and Nazi treatment of Jews are absurd. But my background has made me sensitive to the grimmest of even remote future possibilities. I have exactly the same reactions when I hear such rhetoric directed against Israeli citizens.

I am a philosopher. My calling, at its very basic level, obligates me to question the beliefs with which I was raised. But on this topic — how to live — I was given two answers. Which view do evidence and reason command?

I accept the legacy of my father. But it is impossible for me to shut out my mother’s concerns. Maybe the reality is that all groups are at war for power, and that to adopt an ethic of common humanity is a grave disadvantage. Maybe we should do what we can, but prioritize the safety of our families.

History speaks strongly on my mother’s side. So does my anecdotal evidence. I am white Jewish-American; my sons and wife are black Americans. I cannot retreat from my commitment to these groups. Being interested in the equal dignity of other groups is an additional burden.

It takes work to feel the suffering of Palestinians when I hear of the anger they bear toward my fellow Jews, even though I recognize its clearly justifiable source. It takes much more work to feel the suffering of poor white Americans when I hear it coupled with a thoroughly unjustifiable racism directed against my children. Is it work that I should be doing? Or should I be doing the work of attending primarily to the flourishing of mychildren?

A world in which this ideal is realized is no doubt far-off. The temptation to surrender it is strong. But history has provided us with too many events that show how important it is not to be complicit in making it unattainable.

Source: My Parents’ Mixed Messages on the Holocaust – The New York Times

Le hijab, nouvelle pièce d’équipement des agentes de la GRC

Did not see this in the English language press.

Similar to policies in Edmonton and Toronto and consistent with the 1990 decision to allow Canadian Sikh members of the RCMP to wear a turban:

Dupuis janvier, la Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC) offre à ses agentes de confession musulmane le droit de porter le hijab avec leur uniforme.

Le commissaire de la GRC, Bob Paulson, a expliqué dans une note d’information à l’intention du ministre de la Sécurité publique, Ralph Goodale, que cette mesure vise à permettre au corps policier de refléter davantage la diversité culturelle du pays et d’encourager les femmes de confession musulmane à entrer au service de la GRC.

La GRC devient ainsi le troisième corps policier au pays à permettre aux agentes qui le désirent de porter le hijab, après la police de Toronto en 2011 et la police d’Edmonton en 2013, a souligné le commissaire Paulson dans sa note obtenue par La Presse en vertu de la Loi sur l’accès à l’information.

«La décision de permettre le port du hijab avec l’uniforme de la GRC a pour but de mieux refléter la diversité changeante dans nos communautés et à encourager plus de femmes musulmanes à envisager le travail de policier comme option de carrière», affirme Bob Paulson dans cette note datée du 14 janvier.

Il a souligné que trois sortes de hijab ont été testés par les autorités policières au cours des derniers mois et que le hijab qui a été retenu peut s’enlever rapidement, n’est pas encombrant et ne représente donc pas un risque pour l’agente qui décidera de le porter.

 «Les tests ont démontré que le hijab ne réduit en rien l’efficacité d’une agente dans l’exercice de ses fonctions.» – Le commissaire de la GRC, Bob Paulson

À l’étranger, d’autres pays ont aussi décidé de permettre aux policières de porter le hijab dans le cadre de leurs fonctions, notamment la Grande-Bretagne, la Suède et la Norvège, tout comme d’ailleurs certains États américains, a souligné le grand patron de la GRC. Il a rappelé que les Forces armées canadiennes permettent également aux femmes musulmanes de le porter.

Aucune demande pour le moment

En vertu de la Loi sur la Gendarmerie royale, le commissaire de la GRC est le seul haut gradé du corps policier ayant le pouvoir d’accorder des accommodements religieux aux agents. Mais il appert que M. Paulson n’a reçu aucune demande en ce sens pour le port du hijab de la part d’agentes employées de la GRC. «Jusqu’ici, il n’y a pas eu de demande formelle faite par une agente pour porter le hijab lorsqu’elle est en devoir», a d’ailleurs souligné M. Paulson dans sa note, soulignant que les demandes d’accommodements religieux sont traitées au cas par cas.

Toutefois, au cours des deux dernières années, la GRC a reçu quelque 30 demandes d’accommodements pour des raisons culturelles ou religieuses un peut partout au pays. Dans la majorité des cas, il s’agissait de policiers qui réclamaient le droit de porter la barbe, comme l’exige leur religion.

Rappelons que la GRC permet à ses policiers de porter le turban depuis 1990 dans la foulée d’une décision de la Cour suprême du Canada.

Source: Le hijab, nouvelle pièce d’équipement des agentes de la GRC | Joël-Denis Bellavance | Politique canadienne

Australia: Federal police commissioner warns MPs ‘words matter’ in debate on Islam

Wise words. The presence of One Nation in the Australian elected Senate highlights some of the political differences between Canada and Australia:

The Australian federal police commissioner, Andrew Colvin, has warned federal parliamentarians that words matter, emphasising that police rely on good relationships with the Muslim community to keep Australians safe.

Colvin was asked during an appearance on Sky News on Monday about whether he had any concerns about the newly elected One Nation MPs calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, or a royal commission into Islam.

The police commissioner was reminded about previous interventions by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) warning Coalition MPs to tone down florid rhetoric about Islam because the contributions were considered unhelpful to agencies trying to maintain public safety.

Colvin said he didn’t want to intervene in any political debates but he emphasised that people needed to be careful about their public interventions. “What I have been on the record saying and I will say it again, words do matter,” Colvin said on Monday.

“It’s very important to me that I maintain good relationships with the community. Words do matter. They listen very carefully to what’s said,” Colvin said.

Newly elected senators will come to Canberra on Tuesday for orientation ahead of the resumption of parliament next week. One Nation emerged from the recent poll with a Senate bloc of four.

One Nation’s policy on Islam states that the religion sees itself “as a theocracy, not a democracy.”

“Islam does not believe in democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press or freedom or assembly,” the policy says.

“It does not separate religion and politics. Many believe that it is solely a religion, but the reality is that it is much more, for it has a political agenda that goes far outside the realm of religion.”

“Its religious aspect is fraud; it is rather a totalitarian political system, including legal, economic, social and military components, masquerading as a religion.”

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