Toronto Sun editorial: Learning from the hijab hoax

Unfortunately in the era of social media, immediate responses are required. However, the suggested disclaimer – “If what has been alleged is true” – is sound advice:

Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory didn’t say it, we will.

The problem with Toronto’s now infamous hijab hoax is that it will make Muslims and others who are actual victims of hate crimes more afraid to come forward for fear of not being believed.

And it will make the public more cynical about the reporting of hate crimes.

We aren’t going to fault the prime minister, the premier or the mayor for assuming the initial report of an 11-year-old child describing how she had been attacked by an “Asian man” who twice tried to cut her hijab with scissors was true.

Many people believed it was true. We reported it on our front page.

But once Toronto police said, following their investigation, that no attack had occurred, it was incumbent on Trudeau, Wynne and Tory to stress the dangers of anyone falsely claiming to be the victim of a hate crime, or for that matter any crime.

Instead, they ran for cover, saying only that they were glad that no attack had occurred but that it was important to continue to be vigilant about fighting hatred and racism.

Of course it’s important to fight hatred and racism, but that’s not the lesson to be learned from what happened in this case.

The lesson in this case is that when a school board and municipal, provincial and federal politicians leap to conclusions before all the facts are known, the revelations of those facts can lead to the very thing they hoped to avoid — public cynicism about the reporting of hate crimes.

When the media wrongly identify a member of a minority group as the perpetrator of a crime, politicians are the first to condemn them.

Why then their silence when they wrongly identify a member of minority group as the victim of a crime?

The next time a crime of this nature is alleged, we suggest our political leaders say words to the effect of: “If what has been alleged is true, it’s completely unacceptable in our city (or province, or country) and we are confident the police will treat this matter seriously and investigate it thoroughly.”

Which, by the way, is exactly what happened.

Source: EDITORIAL: Learning from the hijab hoax


‘No longer a citizen’: Government letter tells mom of 4 she’s not Canadian | CBC News

IRCC has to do better in these cases, both substantively as well in their communications with those who fell between the cracks. The Mennonite Central Committee, referred to in the article, has been productive and helpful in resolving comparable cases:

Anneliese Demos thought she was a Canadian until she got a letter in the mail last Friday.

The 39-year-old Winnipeg woman has four kids, has been married for 19 years, works two full-time jobs and pays taxes every year.

“My life is here.”

She came to Canada when she was just two years old and still has the government-issued citizenship card she received when her parents moved to Steinbach, Man. from Paraguay in 1980.

“This is my home. It’s Canada. I’ve lived here all my life,” she said.
But the government has informed Anneliese she’s in fact not a Canadian citizen and has cancelled the certificate that had proved she was.

“I have determined that you are not entitled to hold a Canadian citizenship certificate,” reads a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada dated Dec. 22, 2017.

The letter from the registrar of citizenship then asks for Demos to return her citizenship certificate to the citizenship and passport division in Ottawa.

“It kind of makes you worry, like what are they going to do to me?” Demos said.

2009 law repeal wasn’t retroactive

Anneliese is a so-called “Lost Canadian” due to a law that required second-generation Canadians who were born outside Canada to re-apply for citizenship before turning 28.
The Harper government repealed the law in 2009 but didn’t make it retroactive, meaning it was too late for anyone who missed the deadline before their 28th birthday. It is an issue that has affected many Mennonites such as Anneliese.

Many people, including Anneliese, weren’t even aware of the law.

Advocate says hardship ‘so unnecessary’

Bill Janzen, ​retired ​director of the Ottawa office of the Mennonite Central Committee, said ​he’s worked on more than 200 Lost Canadian cases since retiring in 2008.

​That’s usually meant doing extensive research into a person’s past, searching for records that prove where they went to school and lived and then taking the case with a plea to Canada’s immigration minister asking citizenship be granted due to unusual or special hardship.

To do that, it’s meant looking for documentation that doesn’t always exist anymore, especially for Mennonites who went to school in one-room country schools. “It just seemed so unnecessary that one had to deal with this on an individual basis in such detail when there could have been and should have been a global solution,” Janzen said.

Anneliese’s problems began in 2012 when she tried to get a passport to travel as a celebration of beating breast cancer. Anneliese said a clerk advised her she might have an issue because of her birth year and home country.

Officials denied her passport application and sent her a proof of citizenship form to fill out. She completed it and received a certificate and letter in the mail telling her she was a Canadian citizen, and allowing her to get a passport. She thought the issue was resolved until last Friday.

“Just when you thought it was fixed then you’re like, ‘oh now you’re like no longer a citizen.'”

Anneliese said two out of her six siblings have also had the same problem. Her sister was able to get it fixed after three years but her brother is still in limbo and she said a cousin was deported for two months because of similar circumstances. “It’s stupid,” she said.

Anneliese worries she may now be deported back to Paraguay even though she hasn’t been there since she was two. “We don’t know that family from a hole in the wall.”

‘I don’t even dare try to leave the country’

Her passport is set to expire in April but she fears she wouldn’t even be able to get back in Canada if she tried to use it.

“I don’t even dare try to leave the country.”

Her husband is worried, too.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do [if Anneliese is deported], like who would drive the kids to school?” said John Demos.

Anneliese is planning on holding on to the proof of citizenship document issued in 2012 the government now wants back. “I’m tempted to keep it.”

​Janzen said he had hope the Liberal government would fix the problem but nothing changed.

“I thought we could go somewhere but we didn’t.”​

Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, holds a news conference to update Canadians on the possible impacts of recent immigration-related decisions made by President Donald Trump, in Ottawa on Sunday, January 29, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Janzen has spent years working on this issue and said government staffers were aware of the problem — and hoped to fix it years ago — but they were too late.

​”The officials then told me that ‘we know it would be a mess and we hope to abolish this provision before anyone turns 28 under it.'”

Government aware of problem

The Liberal government is aware of people who have lost or never been able to get citizenship due to the issue and is considering making legal changes, said Jaswal Hursh, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Hursh said “a small number of affected individuals remain” and the government encourages people with similar stories to come forward as they are being dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The government didn’t respond to questions about how Anneliese was able to obtain a Canadian passport if she wasn’t considered a Canadian citizen.

via ‘No longer a citizen’: Government letter tells mom of 4 she’s not Canadian | CBC News

Lifting barriers to citizenship for low-income immigrants

This is a good long article outlining the efforts made to increase citizenship take-up of low-income immigrants in New York (the US Citizenship and Immigration Service also has a fee waiver program, Canada does not despite high fees CAD 630 for adults):

Taking the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony is an emotional moment for many immigrants, and for good reason: it is the culmination of an often arduous process and many years of striving. Citizenship also opens a new chapter marked by possibility, from better job prospects to full participation in civic life.

Yet for many immigrants who aspire to become U.S. citizens, that moment never arrives. Since the 1970s, naturalization rates in the United States have lagged behind those of other major host countries. It’s a striking disparity given that the vast majority of immigrants in the United States express interest in . And since gaining citizenship often boosts immigrants’ social mobility and integration, the fact that so many are left behind points to a troubling loss of solidarity for their host communities.

What holds them back? Why are some immigrants more likely than others to complete the naturalization process?

New research from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab, in collaboration with researchers at George Mason University and the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, provides the first concrete evidence of a major barrier to citizenship for low-income immigrants. The findings help explain why citizenship-promotion efforts face significant challenges, and they provide a blueprint for solutions to ensure that all immigrants have equal access to citizenship and its benefits.

A Life-Changing Program

In seeking to understand disparities in naturalization patterns, previous studies have focused on the immigrants themselves—individual characteristics like language skills, resources, or country of origin. Here, the researchers considered an external factor out of immigrants’ control: the high costs of the citizenship application process.

For many low-income immigrants, the price tag is daunting: $725 just to file the application, plus hundreds or even thousands more if you need English classes or consultations with immigration lawyers. Charitable organizations have stepped up to provide free language training, legal advice, and help navigating the paperwork. But the application fee has only become more burdensome, rising by 800 percent in real terms since 1985, when it was $35 (or $80.25 in today’s dollars). The federal government offers a fee waiver for the poorest immigrants—those with incomes below 150% of the poverty line—but for many others who aren’t destitute but struggle to make ends meet, that fee alone can put citizenship out of reach.

To address this potentially pivotal financial obstacle, IPL teamed up with the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) and two funders dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers, Robin Hood, and New York Community Trust. Together they developed an innovative, public-private program called NaturalizeNY, which offers low-income immigrants an opportunity to win a voucher covering the naturalization application fee.

Veyom Bahl, a managing director at Robin Hood, said, “Robin Hood is proud to partner with the world-class researchers at the Stanford Immigration Policy Lab. Like us, they are committed to helping families build a strong footing for a new life in the United States. This research will help foundations, community-based organizations, and policymakers alike re-think how we invest in our communities for maximum impact.”

NaturalizeNY also connects registrants with application assistance from ONA’s network of nonprofit service providers. New York’s leading immigrant service organizations, including CUNY Citizenship Now!, Hispanic Federation, and Catholic Charities, were also integral in promoting and implementing the program.

“This was a truly first-of-a-kind program, where a state agency, philanthropies, academics, and nonprofits created a way to provide direct financial support to help low-income immigrants apply for citizenship. The Immigration Policy Lab was excited to partner in its design and evaluation so everyone involved could understand its impact on immigrants and the New York community,” said Michael Hotard, an IPL program manager.

New York is home to the nation’s second-largest immigrant population, and its metro area has about 160,000 low-income immigrants eligible for citizenship. With a registration website in seven languages, NaturalizeNY focused on relatively poor New Yorkers who, by virtue of income or lack of eligibility for government benefits like food stamps or cash assistance, did not qualify for the existing federal fee waiver program.

NaturalizeNY used a lottery to award the 336 available vouchers, leaving 527 registrants without one. By following the two groups to see how many completed the citizenship application, researchers could measure the power of financial assistance, and in turn determine how much the costs may discourage others from naturalizing.

The results were unequivocal: the vouchers roughly doubled the application rate, from 37 percent among those without a voucher to 78 percent among recipients. The vouchers proved particularly effective for those who registered in Spanish; their application rate rose by 51 percent compared to a 36 percent rise among English speakers.

“Because NaturalizeNY uses a lottery system to equitably distribute vouchers to eligible registrants, for the first time we have clear causal evidence as to the effect of application fee vouchers on citizenship decisions. The magnitude of the effect suggests that it’s a critical lever to improve low-income immigrants’ access to citizenship”, said Jens Hainmueller, a professor of political science at Stanford and IPL co-director.

The Deeper Challenges of Poverty

For the poorest immigrants, however, even eliminating the application cost isn’t necessarily enough to pave the way toward citizenship. They may not know that they’re eligible for a fee waiver, or they may find the process too difficult if they’re working several jobs, caring for children or elderly relatives, or unable to get assistance with the application.

Do these kinds of disadvantages keep these immigrants from becoming citizens? To find out, researchers identified 1,760 immigrants who registered for NaturalizeNY but weren’t entered into the lottery because they likely qualified for the federal fee waiver. While the voucher group’s average annual household income was $19,000 per person, this group’s average was just $7,500. Everyone in this group received a message during registration informing them that, based on their responses, they likely could apply for citizenship without cost and that assistance was available. 1,124 then received various “nudges” encouraging them to apply and to visit a local service provider for help navigating the process.

These nudges mimicked the real-world interventions many groups rely on to reach immigrants in need: emails, phone calls, text messages, an official letter by regular mail, and a $10 MetroCard intended to allay the cost of commuting to a service provider. Yet none of these encouragements made a significant difference in application rates beyond the 44 percent for those who received no additional encouragements.

In follow-up surveys, many participants said they had been too busy to apply. But when researchers returned to the data, they found that busyness couldn’t be the whole answer: the nudges were just as ineffective for single people as for members of large households, and for those of working age and retirement age.

“That so many ended up not applying indicates that challenges to naturalization run deeper than financial constraints,” said Duncan Lawrence, IPL executive director. “It’s clear that we have more to learn about what sorts of cost-effective nudges may or may not work. Raising awareness of the fee waiver itself may be an important piece of the puzzle, and we are actively working to understand how learning about the fee waiver affects application rates.”

Citizenship and Social Mobility

For policymakers looking to address social inequality and give low-income immigrants a potential pathway to the middle class, the voucher results speak volumes. The current naturalization system imposes prohibitive costs on exactly those immigrants who might stand to benefit the most from the opportunities citizenship brings.

NaturalizeNY could inspire other cities and states to create similar public-private partnerships. ONA director Laura Gonzalez-Murphy emphasized the project’s actionable insights, saying, “The New York State Office for New Americans Opportunity Centers are leaders on the ground, establishing strong relationships and trust with immigrants and refugees from across the world. We are always eager to eliminate barriers for these individuals and help them on their path to citizenship. Thanks to our partners, including Stanford, George Mason, and SUNY Albany, we now have a unique project to paint a real picture of the current immigration system and see where opportunities for positive change may arise.”

At the federal level, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently lowered the fee for applicants between 150 and 200 percent of the poverty level. As this research illustrates, however, the financial barrier remains decisive for low-income immigrants above that range. Expanding this tiered system, with wealthier applicants paying more, would allow USCIS to cover its administrative costs while keeping citizenship affordable for all.

These are relatively simple projects to fund and administer, and they have a potentially big long-term payoff: if becoming an American citizen makes immigrants more likely to pursue higher education, start a business, or enter a profession, then boosting naturalization rates would make for better integrated, more prosperous communities.

Source: Lifting barriers to citizenship for low-income immigrants

Memo to Donald Trump: Canadian immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries are thriving: Arvind Magesan

Good analysis by Magesan (my ongoing analysis of census data has similar results):

Defenders of Donald Trump say his “shithole countries” remark regarding people from Africa, Haiti and other nations was just Trump being Trump — the president may have used salty language, but it’s really just his way of saying the United States should have a merit-based immigration system like Canada’s.

A generous interpretation of Trump’s comments are that immigrants from certain so-called “shithole” countries—African nations, Haiti and El Salvador—are not typically highly skilled or economically self-reliant, and if admitted would need to depend on the state.

In fact, Trump apologists—and the president himself—might be surprised by what the economic data says about immigrants who come to Canada from the “shithole” countries.

John Fredericks, who was Trump’s campaign chair in Virginia, told CNN that immigrants from those countries “come into the United States and they do nothing to increase the prosperity of the American worker. They lower wages or go on welfare and extend our entitlement system …. Australia and Canada have a merit-based system. You know why they do that? Because they want to bring people into their country who are going to enhance the prosperity of their citizens.”

Trump himself tweeted a similar sentiment.

The conclusion we are expected to make, it seems, is that if the United States was to adopt a purely merit-based system, immigrants would not come from these countries—they would come from countries like Norway, and immigrants from these Norway-like countries would not put pressure on blue-collar U.S. workers because they would be highly skilled and, more importantly, they wouldn’t be a drain on the system because they would be economically self-reliant.

A merit-based system

Canada offers an opportunity to take a look at this hypothesis because our points-based immigration system screens immigrants on merit to a large degree. So when we screen immigrants on merit, who do we let in and how do they do?

The first thing to note is that Canada admits many immigrants from the “shithole” countries.

Data from the 2016 census shows over the last five years there have been more than twice as many immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean (which includes Haiti and El Salvador) than there were from the U.S. There were also more immigrants from the African continent than from the U.S. and North and Western Europe combined.

Clearly a merit-based system does not mean we only admit people from the “Norways” of the world—and in fact, the census data shows only 230 people immigrated from Norway over the five-year period.

The next question is how do these immigrants fare?

To look more closely at this, I used individual 2011 Canadian census data (detailed 2016 data isn’t yet available) to look at three groups: Canadians whose families have been here for three generations or longer; immigrants from the “Norways” of the world (Northern and Western Europe, including the U.K., Germany, and Scandinavia) and immigrants from Trump’s “shithole” countries (Central America, the Caribbean, Africa).

I looked at the skill levels of the different groups, as measured by their education level, and then at their economic self-sufficiency: employment, wages and how much they receive in transfers and employment benefits from the government.

Let’s start with skill level.

Forty per cent of Canadians who have been here for three generations or longer have at least some post-secondary education, and 18 per cent have a bachelor’s degree. By comparison, a much larger percentage of immigrants of either type (53 per cent) have some post-secondary, and 27 per cent of immigrants from “Shitholes” have a bachelor’s degree. So by this standard measure of skill, immigrants from “Shitholes” have a slightly higher skill level than do immigrants from “Norways,” and a much higher skill level on average than Canadians who have been here for generations.

What about self-sufficiency?

It is commonly argued that immigrants, particularly from poorer countries, are “expensive” because they receive a disproportionate amount of government transfers and unemployment benefits. The truth is, though Canadians who have been here for generations are more likely to be employed and earn (slightly) more on average than either immigrant group, immigrants from the “Shitholes” are far more likely to be employed than immigrants from the “Norways.”

Fewer transfer payments

Perhaps more interestingly, immigrants from the “Shitholes” receive fewer transfer payments from all levels of government than “Norwegian” immigrants.

Finally, looking at employment insurance benefits alone, Canadians who have been here for generations receive more than either group.

What can we say about these numbers?

Firstly, immigrants from the “Shithole” countries are not typically low skill and in principle, should not be putting pressure on employment or wages of blue-collar workers in Canada. Then why is this such a common perception?

It’s likely due to a different issue, that high-skilled immigrants are unable to get high-skill jobs for other reasons (discrimination in the labour market, an inability of employers to recognize or evaluate credentials, or even language issues) and then do end up competing with lower-skilled Canadian workers.

Secondly, immigrants from the “Shithole” countries are generally no more dependent on the state than other Canadians. Though they earn less than those from the “Norway” countries, they are more likely to be employed and they receive less total government transfer payments.

Many differences

As an economist, it’s important to state that we shouldn’t interpret these relationships between country of origin and economic outcomes as causal—workers from different countries are different for many reasons (demographics like age, as well as occupation, etc).

But that doesn’t at all affect the main point—Trump’s perception of the differences in the average immigrant from countries like Haiti and Norway is at the very least a consequence ignorance, or as many have suggested, racism.

One thing that can’t be rationalized by the raw numbers here: The course of history and the current plight of many of the “shithole” countries is at least partly a consequence of U.S. foreign policies, that the position of relative economic superiority of the U.S. is partly an outcome of these policies, and that this above all might imply a moral obligation on the part of the U.S. when deciding who to let in and from where.

via Memo to Donald Trump: Canadian immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries are thriving –


Douglas Todd: Explosive B.C. court case details seven migration scams

Another good article by Todd, covering the different scams uncovered by this case:

A shocking B.C. Supreme Court case that pitted two rich families from China against each other provides grim revelations about the kind of migration, tax, and real-estate scams regularly occurring in Metro Vancouver and beyond.

Immigration and tax lawyers are stunned that the Fu and Zhu families became embroiled in a lengthy civil suit over three multi-million dollar houses they purchased together in Vancouver, since their case provides evidence of their illicit schemes around real estate, tax avoidance and immigration.

“This case provides unusually candid insight into what those who would abuse our immigration and real-estate systems really think in their own words about their true motives for seeking access to Canada and our real estate,” said Vancouver immigration lawyer Sam Hyman.

David Lesperance, a Toronto-based immigration and tax lawyer, said: “The fact that two different parties … would choose to fully expose their transgressions in a public forum shows either blinding ignorance, or complacency about the ramifications of that exposure, given the longtime lack of enforcement of immigration and tax laws in Canada.”

While both specialists believe the Fu versus Zhu case justifies investigation by the Canadian Revenue Agency, the Canada Border Services Agency and other enforcement bodies, they say the dispute between the families indirectly illustrates the range of common, mostly unpunished migration and real-estate scams occurring in Canada.

Here are seven migration-related subterfuges the case exposes:

1. Not declaring full worldwide income to Canadian tax officials

Judge Susan Griffin scoffed at one family’s breadwinner, Guoqing Fu, for declaring to the Canadian Revenue Agency he had a worldwide income of only $97.11.

“This was an incredible assertion, given the fact he owns one of the top 10 textile manufacturing and distribution companies” in China’s biggest production zone, said Griffin.

The immigration specialists say it’s commonplace for wealthy foreign real-estate investors to falsely claim to tax authorities they earn much less than they do. It’s typically done in an attempt, they say, to avoid income taxes in Canada, and to make one’s family eligible for welfare and other taxpayer-financed subsidies.

But the Fu family may have gone too far, says Lesperance. “I think that clearly an investigation by Canada Revenue Agency is in order. (Depending on the results) the CRA could definitely ask the Crown to proceed with a criminal tax evasion charge, which could result in a 200-per-cent-of-tax-evaded penalty, plus up to five years imprisonment.”

2. Pretending to spend time in Canada to meet residency requirements

Chunquin Zhou referred to one of her Vancouver luxury houses as “immigration jail,” a term often adopted by well-off would-be migrants.

She used the phrase in reference to what she considered the hardship inherent in Ottawa’s requirement that would-be immigrants physically spend two years out of five in Canada before obtaining citizenship.

The judge also found her son, Xiao Feng Fu, was “sophisticated in lying, including in scheming to deceive Canadians immigration authorities that he could maintain permanent residency status without spending the necessary days residing in Canada.”

The family members’ attempts to pretend they were living in Canada while spending time offshore echo a technique used in a widespread scam orchestrated up until 2015 by Richmond resident Xun Wang, who hauled in $10 million over eight years by producing altered Chinese passports and fraudulent identities for up to 1,200 clients.

3. Hiding real real-estate ownership

The Fu and Zhu families were well versed in how to avoid taxes on the sale of their houses by making false claims about the actual owners.

One common technique that wealthy foreign nationals use to avoid or evade paying capital gains tax in Canada is by putting dwellings in the names of children or spouses who appear to be permanent residents of Canada, and who appear, at least on paper, to occupy the houses.

4. Lack of regulation of real-estate agents

The son’s phoney claims about spending time in Canada were coordinated by the families’ realtor, identified only as “Mr. Gu.” The realtor assisted the son by helping provide false pay cheques, false employment records and false verbal claims about losing his permanent-resident card while in China.

“The new B.C. real estate regulator may want to invite Mr. Gu to a session over his behaviour,” said Hyman, referring to the way B.C.’s real-estate regulation was recently reformed following persistent complaints it was failing to discipline rogue realtors.

5. Illicitly laundering money out of China

The Fu versus Zhu case baldly highlights the two families’ efforts to break the laws of China, which is increasingly placing tighter restrictions on the amount of money it allows to leave the economic powerhouse.

The Fu family, to avoid detection, used their employees on 21 occasions to transfer lump sums just under China’s restriction against removing more than $50,000 US a year from the country.

The judge noted the parties acknowledged the steps were taken to evade China’s currency controls, as well as its restrictions on how many dwellings they could own.

The Fu and Zhu families’ efforts to illegally remove at least $1 million US from China corresponds to similar attempts made by Anita Wang and other families from China, who the B.C. Supreme Court found in early January illicitly laundered $750,000 to buy a property in Port Coquitlam.

6. Misusing provincial migration programs

The two families from China initially started their application process to move to and invest in Canada by going through the provincial nominee programs of Prince Edward Island and Manitoba, jurisdictions which lack the popularity of Metro Vancouver and Toronto for migrants.

Neither family showed any intention of settling in those provinces, since they immediately put all their efforts into investing in residential real estate on the west side of Vancouver.

7. Exploiting Canadian courts, with costly trials

Postmedia reporter Sam Cooper is among the journalists who are increasingly covering lengthy cases involving foreign nationals who use Canadian civil courts to solve their own trans-national legal wrangles.

But, as Hyman says, it costs Canadian taxpayers a great deal to provide the judges, buildings and legal staff to run the court system, even when the losing side sometimes has to contribute to opponents’ lawyers’ fees.

“The bitterest irony in all this is that those who would so brazenly thwart our laws with such perceived impunity, for personal gain, would turn to our taxpayer-funded legal system for recourse. Chutzpah doesn’t begin to describe the parties’ conduct,” said Hyman.

Despite the conclusion of the Fu versus Zhu civil case, Hyman noted the family members involved “appear to continue to have access to Canada.”

via Douglas Todd: Explosive B.C. court case details seven migration scams | Vancouver Sun

FUREY: Hijab hoax girl, family owe Canadians an apology

Hard to disagree, although more information on the back story on why Noman pulled that stunt would be helpful:

It was the assault that pulled on the heartstrings of a nation.

Khawlah Noman’s story of being attacked not once but twice by a man in his 20s who used scissors to cut her hijab garnered responses from coast-to-coast.

The media seized upon this troubling tale as camera crews rushed to her Scarborough school for a press conference several hours after the Friday morning assault happened.

Noman was flanked by her young brother, who witnessed the despicable act, and her mother – who was in tears.

The public sentiments were like a deluge: they came fast and they came strong. Toronto Mayor John Tory. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They all issued statements. “Canada is an open and welcoming country,” posted Trudeau, “and incidents like this cannot be tolerated.”

The Toronto Sun featured the story on the front page. My colleague Lorrie Goldstein posted the following sentiment that I agreed with and retweeted: “One can only imagine how terrified this innocent child must have been to have been attacked twice by the same man in the space of a few minutes. Appalling.”

I thought at the time that everyone falling over themselves was a bit too much. The suspect had not yet been found. Maybe things weren’t quite as they were portrayed. And, besides, people are unfortunately assaulted daily in this country and the overly political response to this one implied that assaulting a girl in a hijab was somehow worse and more deserving of censure than assaulting one without.

But even if the response was overkill, the basic idea of a girl being randomly attacked while walking to school was still worthy of our condemnation. It’s not like it would turn out to be a hoax. Right? Wrong.

On Monday, Toronto Police issued the following brief statement. “After a detailed investigation, police have determined that the events described did not happen,” it read. “Our investigation is concluded and we don’t expect anything further.”

It did not happen. It was a hoax. Well then that statement just doesn’t cut it. While police may not be expecting anything further, Canadians certainly will be.

The outpouring of public support this girl received shows Canadians are compassionate people. They take allegations of this type of intolerance seriously. Yet their generosity was abused.

There are too many questions remaining for the cops to leave it like this. Last August, police considered charging a man in Durham Region for misleading them about a false Islamophobia complaint. Section 140 of the Criminal Code covers public mischief. It says that “making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed and offence” could see you locked up for up to five years. They even arrested a homeless man in the case, only to later find the complainant’s story didn’t add up.

Khawlah Noman, 11, is accompanied by her brother Mohammad Zakarijja and their mom Saima Samad as she recalls a man slicing her hijab as she and her sibling walked to Pauline Johnson Public School in Scarborough on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018.
Now Khawlah Noman is an 11-year-old, so would not be charged. But what did her mother know? Watching the girl’s video statement again, the girl’s words look well-prepared. It must be asked, given what we now know: Was she coached?

“Heartwarming note: A friend gave her another hijab to wear,” CBC reporter Ali Chiasson tweeted from the press conference. “The one she was wearing with the 12 inch gash is with police as evidence.”

What does this element now mean? Did someone fabricate evidence? That would make it so much worse.

One sad outcome of this story is that decent, fair-minded Canadians whose hearts went out to this girl may look at the next such attack with suspicion. And that one could be real.

The family, the police and the school board owe us an explanation. And Khawlah Noman and her family owe Canada an apology.

via FUREY: Hijab hoax girl, family owe Canadians an apology | Toronto Sun

Canadian citizenship still not equal for all, due to ongoing issues with legislation | National Observer

Notable that the cases being mentioned are either related to missing documentation or the first generation cut-off, indicating that previous legislative changes in C-37 and C-24 have addressed the legal gaps.

There would appear to be scope for IRCC to treat such cases more expeditiously than appears to be the case.

But the numbers are small: an IRCC briefing note of February 2017 indicated:

  • “Since 2010, 384 people have received a discretionary grant of citizenship ….; 326 were Lost Canadian cases, with almost all involving people who “failed to take steps required by the previous law to retain citizenship.”

And of course, those affected by the first generation cut-off rule can always obtain citizenship through becoming a permanent resident and meet the residency and other requirements:

Imagine living your entire life as a Canadian, then suddenly finding out you’re not actually a citizen.

Consider what it would be like to grow up in Canada with Canadian parents, but then have a baby in another country and discover your child is not entitled to Canadian citizenship.

It’s happened to many people over the past few decades, as Canada has changed its citizenship laws. Those laws keep changing and although most of the changes are for the better, each time it happens, someone is surprised to find out they don’t qualify for citizenship.

Don Chapman, author of The Lost Canadians: A Struggle for Citizenship Rights, Equality, and Identity, has been an advocate for the “Lost Canadians” for years, after his struggles with losing citizenship and fighting to regain it.

Loopholes in the law

Chapman warns that citizenship in Canada is not written into constitutional law. He argues the problem that has plagued Canadian citizenship for more than 100 years is that citizenship laws — which still have discriminatory loopholes — keep changing, depending on which government takes power.

“Citizenship is a constitutional right in the United States,” Chapman said in an interview with National Observer. “In Canada, it is a privilege and it’s a legislated privilege, so that means that the government — if we got a Donald Trump in Canada — could say, ‘You didn’t vote for me, I’m cancelling your citizenship.’”

Chapman said he still receives panicked calls from Canadians who turn to him for help after learning they don’t have citizenship status. Having been through the ordeal of regaining status himself, he found that Canada’s laws need a lot of work.

In 2007, he learned up to 200,000 Canadians were affected by arcane provisions of the law that stripped them of citizenship, often without their knowledge, and while many of these have been resolved as a result of legislation he helped create, others still are struggling with the problem.

The ‘Lost Canadians’ lose their citizenship status for a variety of reasons, and come from all walks of life. They include children, seniors, well-established business owners as well as vulnerable youth. Mennonites as well as Indigenous people and multi-generational Canadians born across the border.

How do you prove Canadian citizenship?

Stephanie Fenner is a classic example. She just received her citizenship last Monday, after fighting for status for years. Born in El Paso, Texas, she came with her parents at the age of three and came to Lumby, B.C. She never questioned she was a Canadian citizen, having grown up her whole life around B.C. and Alberta.

“I grew up in Canada thinking I was Canadian until I was a teenager – when I was about to get my drivers’ license, my parents decided to tell me I had no paperwork,” she said. Her mother was a Dutch landed immigrant in Canada and her father worked in the U.S. military, but they’d never registered her when they came to Canada.

Stephanie Fenner, 25, has lived in Canada since age 3, but she only just received citizenship in January 2018. She said she applied four times for citizenship and was rejected consistently despite having records showing she attended school and lived in Canada since an early age. Video by Jenny Uechi

Fenner says while her family was partly responsible for her lack of citizenship, she’d never imagined at age 17 that it would take her a total of eight long years, and continual rejections to applications, before she would finally get to receive citizenship.

And she wasn’t alone. At the ceremony, she met Squamish, B.C. resident Byrdie Funk, who lived in Canada her entire life since she was two months old, but had also been denied citizenship due to arcane provisions of the law.

They listened to each other’s stories, and shared the roadblocks they’d faced while trying to prove they were bona fide Canadians.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people told me, ‘Oh, well, you can just get married (to a Canadian) and that’s going to solve all your problems,'” Fenner said.

“People told me that all the time too!” Funk agreed emphatically. “They’re like, ‘Your husband’s Canadian, so that fixes it all.’ It actually doesn’t. Nor is that the point.”

Both Fenner and Funk had substantial documentation to prove they were fully Canadian, but nevertheless were left waiting for years, during which they were essentially stateless. Fenner especially suffered, lacking heath insurance coverage since she stopped being covered under her mother’s care at age 21, and having no social insurance number, meaning she couldn’t work legally in Canada.

“I had to pay $200 for a tetanus shot, and that’s really hard because I couldn’t work,” she said. “I went through a lot of hard experiences in the last eight years. I was sleeping on people’s couches. I was often in situations I didn’t want to be in. I had no money.”

Fenner said she’d applied and been rejected four times by the Canadian government, and that instead of being accepted, she eventually started getting calls from Canadian Border Services Agency. She started to feel a real fear of being deported to a country she hadn’t lived in since she was a child.

She credits her common-law husband for supporting her to get this far, and says she’s looking forward to starting her new life out of the shadow of statelessness.

Fenner and Funk’s years-long struggle with immigration and citizenship authorities highlights an uncomfortable reality about the murkiness of Canadian citizenship. How do Canadians prove their citizenship? In Funk’s case, she had it stripped away without her knowledge in 2008, due to a provision in the law stating anyone born abroad between Feb. 15, 1977, and April 16, 1981, to Canadian parents who were also born abroad had to apply keep their citizenship by age 27 or lose her status. Funk remembers she wasn’t even aware of the existence of such a rule, nor informed of it. For Fenner, she could provide documents proving she’d lived in Canada and been educated here since her earliest days, but proving Canadian status turned out to be much harder than it seemed.

“I actually think a lot more Canadians are affected than we realize. They just haven’t come forward,” Funk said. Just last week, a mother of four in Winnipeg got a jarring letter that she wasn’t entitled have citizenship, even though her whole life was built in Canada.

Fenner had in fact received Don Chapman’s contact after her friend saw a news story about Qia Gunster young man from Prince George who had been in a very similar predicament.

Many of the problems causing “Lost Canadians” have been addressed in recent legislation, but another outstanding issue is the issue of second-generation Canadians born abroad. They’re not considered Canadians, even if their Canadian parent has significant attachment to the country.

Alberta-raised woman’s daughters not eligible for citizenship

Victoria Maruyama’s two daughters, Akari, 8, and Arisa, 6, are in a different situation.

They can’t get Canadian citizenship, despite the fact their mother is a Canadian citizen who grew up in Edmonton, attending public school, and then lived in Vancouver while she went to the University of British Columbia.

After graduation, she moved to Japan to teach English and make some money to pay off her student loans. She ended up staying, getting married and having Akari and Arisa.

The reason the two girls are not Canadian: Victoria was born in Hong Kong to a Canadian father and Hong Kong mother. She moved to Canada when she was just one year old, but because she was herself born abroad, she cannot pass on Canadian citizenship to her children who are also born abroad.

That’s because of the changes made in 2009, just before Akari was born, that make second-generation born abroad children ineligible for Canadian citizenship.

Maruyama couldn’t believe her daughters might not be considered Canadian.

“Surely this can’t apply to me … I’m as Canadian as they come,” she said. “I understand … that they don’t want to give full rights of Canadian citizenship to people who are claiming it as a backup, … but this is not what my children are. This is my home country.”

The family lives in Edmonton now, but the girls are in the country on visitors’ visas, which must be renewed every six months. They don’t qualify for medical coverage.

“We feel Canadian – we’ve been raised Canadian, but we’re not Canadian enough according to the government,” Maruyama said, adding that if she was an immigrant, her kids would be considered Canadian. “That’s the craziness there.”

She has applied again for both kids, at a cost of about $300. Her application has been in for about five months now. Her children are here in Canada as visitors, and their status runs out at the end of January. Advocates say forcing the children to leave would be a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Two classes of Canadians – those born abroad lose out

Patrick Chandler, similarly, is a born abroad Canadian experiencing trouble with his children’s citizenship. He was born in Libya, while his dad was a naturalized Canadian who had immigrated from Ireland. His mother was born in the United States to a Canadian mother and an Iraqi father. His great-grandfather on his mother’s side died fighting for Canada in the Second World War.

Chandler’s parents were in Libya, working as teachers. They moved home to Canada when Chandler was just two years old. He was raised in Canada and attended school here until adulthood. When he was 20, he travelled to China and ended up staying a while – about 10 years. While there, he had a baby with a Chinese woman, who is now his wife. At the time the baby, Rachel Chandler, was born, the couple were not married, which meant she was not entitled to Chinese citizenship.

Patrick was shocked when he found out his daughter was in fact stateless. Rachel was not entitled to Canadian citizenship either, due to a change in the law made in 2009, which stated that babies born abroad, to parents who are also born abroad, are not entitled to Canadian citizenship.

“This has essentially created a second-class of citizen. I do not have the same rights written into law, as other Canadians do,” Chandler said in a recent interview with the National Observer. “I can’t pass on my citizenship to my kids if they’re born abroad. It’s a huge violation of human rights and the rights of a child.”

It was the Canadian government that suggested Patrick try Ireland, the country his father emigrated from to come to Canada, because that country passes on citizenship to grandchildren. Eventually, Rachel was able to get her Irish citizenship, which seemed strange as neither she nor her father Patrick had ever lived there before.

“How absurd is that?” Patrick said.

Patrick and his wife had another baby, a son, but because they were married by the time of his birth, the son, Ryan, is entitled to Chinese citizenship.

Patrick is now working for the B.C. government and he would like to bring his family here. At the moment, they have applied to immigrate at a cost of about $1,500, using the standard channels. If they were to come on a visitor’s visa, they wouldn’t have the same rights, such as to a public education or to healthcare. In China, the family pays about $20,000 a year for private school for their daughter. She is not entitled to a public school education because she is not Chinese.

A citizenship ombudsman could help, advocates say

Both Maruyama and Chandler would like to see a citizenship ombudsman position created, so that citizenship decisions are made by a human being, rather than simply based on a check list.

Chandler would like to see a clause in the Citizenship Act that says if a citizen can demonstrate a significant connection to the country, such as living here for many years or attending school here, it doesn’t matter where they were born.

“A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. You devalue the citizenship of every Canadian in this place, in this country, when you break it down and make it conditional,” now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during an election debate in 2015.

Although he was talking about the possibility of taking away citizenship from someone who has committed terrorism, his words sound hypocritical to Canadians like Maruyama and Chandler ,who are Canadian, but not equal to others in terms of their rights to pass on their citizenship to their children.

The Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada refused to comment on any specific case. However, in a statement, they said 2009 changes to the Citizenship Act introduced a one-generation limit to citizenship by descent. Prior to then, citizenship could be passed on to endless generations born outside of Canada.

“The changes prevented the passing on of automatic citizenship to those born abroad in a second or subsequent generation who may have little or no attachment to Canada,” the ministry said in an emailed response to National Observer questions.

The ministry said children born to Canadian parents who are not eligible for citizenship at birth may be sponsored for permanent residence by their parents. Once they are permanent residents, the parents can apply for a grant of citizenship. Applicants who have been turned down for citizenship can seek leave for judicial review before the Federal Court, the ministry said.

Canada’s chance to be a ‘beacon of light’

Chapman says this could be rectified with a bill to modify the Citizenship Act, a bill that allows all first-generation Canadians who are born abroad the right to prove their substantial connection to Canada, just like an immigrant does. He says he is working on a bill that will say just that, and that will also immediately recognize any stateless child born to a Canadian parent as a Canadian.

“We can show the world we are a beacon of light – this is where we were and where we are going. We need to do a new citizenship act that is inclusive and modern… and let’s change our identity from we’re English and French to we’re Indigenous, French, English and multicultural officially, because that’s what we are,” Chapman said.

People who immigrate to Canada pass on citizenship as though they were born in the country.

The rules governing citizenship frequently change – just last week, the CBC reported that there was a 17,500 surge in citizenship applications after the government relaxed the language and residency rules. Those new rules came into effect on October 11, 2017, as a result of Bill C-6, which received Royal Assent in June.

Further changes are expected in 2018.

via Canadian citizenship still not equal for all, due to ongoing issues with legislation | National Observer

Making The Case That Discrimination Is Bad For Your Health : NPR

Another in a good series of articles and studies on the impact of discrimination on health, this time on the concept of “weathering:”

When Arline Geronimus was a student at Princeton University in the late 1970s, she worked a part-time job at a school for pregnant teenagers in Trenton, N.J. She quickly noticed that the teenagers at that part-time job were suffering from chronic health conditions that her whiter, better-off Princeton classmates rarely experienced. Geronimus began to wonder: how much of the health problems that the young mothers in Trenton experienced were caused by the stresses of their environment?

It was later, during her graduate studies, that Geronimus came up with the term weathering — a metaphor, she thought, for what she saw happening to their bodies. She meant for weathering to evoke a sense of erosion by constant stress. But also, importantly, the ways that marginalized people and their communities coped with the drumbeat of big and small stressors that marked their lives.

At first, lots of folks in academic circles rolled their eyes at her coinage, arguing on panels and in newspapers that poor, black communities had worse health outcomes than better-off white communities because of unhealthy life choices, and immutable genetic differences. But as the science around genetics and stress physiology became better understood, Geronimus’ “weathering” hypothesis started picking up steam in wider circles.

We spoke to Geronimus, now a public health a public health researcher and professor at the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center, on the latest episode of the Code Switch podcast about how weathering works, and why it took so long for people to come around to what Geronimus and other public health professionals had been saying for years. [This interview was edited for clarity and length.]

CS: Can we get into the science of weathering a little bit?

AG: There have been folk notions and laypeople have thought that health differences between populations — such as black versus white in the U.S. — were somehow related to differences in our DNA, that we were, in a sense, molecularly programmed to have this disease or that disease. But instead, social and environmental factors, can through what’s called DNA methylation, which occurs — I don’t know how technical you want to get — but that occurs when a group of molecules attach methyl groups to specific areas of a gene’s promoter region, and either prevent the reading of certain genes and sort of forms the gene’s product, and you have genetic expression of that gene. That’s a pretty powerful idea, and it sort of refutes the kind of more DNA-centric one, that you are destined by the literal DNA you have to have certain diseases or not.

But what I’ve seen over the years of my research and lifetime is that the stressors that impact people of color are chronic and repeated through their whole life course, and in fact may even be at their height in the young adult-through-middle-adult ages rather than in early life. And that increases a general health vulnerability — which is what weathering is.

I heard an interview with Emerald Snipes Garner, who was talking about the death of her beloved sister Erica. She used a metaphor that I think would also be a great description of weathering. She talked about the stresses that she felt led to Erica’s death at age twenty-seven as being like if you’re playing the game Jenga. They pull out one piece at a time, at a time, and another piece and another piece, until you sort of collapse. I’m paraphrasing her, but I thought that Jenga metaphor was very apt because you start losing pieces of your health and well-being, but you still try to go on as long as you can. Even if you’re disabled, even if it’s hard, that you have a certain tenacity and hope, and sense of collective responsibility whether that’s for your family or community. But there’s a point where enough pieces have been pulled out of you, that you can no longer withstand, and you collapse.

CS: When you coined the term weathering, there was a lot of pushback. Where was the locus of that pushback?

AG: There were actually several loci. Many in the medical community really seemed to think that there was just something intrinsic or genetic: that black-white differences in health must be [caused] by some hypertension gene. Or if it wasn’t a literal gene back in Africa, then maybe something about how hard theMiddle Passage was, that people who survived it had this gene for salt retention. It’s been very well debunked both on anthropological grounds but also on if you compare hypertension rates, for example, between American blacks and blacks in the Caribbean. The American blacks have far higher rates of hypertension, yet both [populations] went through the Middle Passage.

Others didn’t necessarily think in those terms, economists were thinking more behaviorally and sociologists sensed that there was an essential pathological culture that led to bad behaviors and weak families. And that was a very strong narrative in the ’70s, ’80s, and I think it’s a narrative that still exists [today], though more contested.

So this idea of weathering, and its metaphysical aspects, didn’t sound technical enough, and it didn’t fit any of those narratives.

GD: What was that like for you when people were dismissing your work?

AG: It was not fun! [laughs] It was very hard especially because some of them dismissed it very publicly. Another reason people dismissed it is that I first observed that young black women were more likely to have poor pregnancy outcomes if they were in their mid-twenties than if they were in their late teens. And this flew in the face of a lot of advocacy organizations that were working very hard to prevent teen childbearing. I think there was a Time magazine cover at one point that said, something like, “all social problems stem from teen childbearing.” [The cover story’s subhead read: “Teen pregnancies are corroding America’s social fabric.” — ed.] There was certainly a whole narrative that teen motherhood somehow caused perpetual poverty, lack of education, and poor birth outcomes. [But] the data spoke for themselves — that the risks were higher in black young women the later they waited to have children, and that was not true for whites. Whites, by comparison, had the lowest risks around their mid-twenties and the highest risk in their teens.

GD: And the rates were higher because the black women who waited just a few years later were more weathered.

AG: Exactly. The impacts on their bodies had been happening for a longer period of time.

So when did this concept of weathering start to gain more traction?

AG: It’s been two steps forward, one step back rather than there being a time when it gained traction. It was a hypothesis for me at first and then I started with colleagues doing studies to test it. As the years went by, we had more and more studies that seemed to be consistent with it.

In addition, I think the idea of stress — and not just, “I feel so stressed” but this broader sense of stress actually being this physiological process that impacts your health, or the strength of your various body systems — that became better understood sort of in the ’90s. A variety of neuro- endocrinologists at Rockefeller University, and Robert Sapolsky at Stanford talked about these stress reactions, what they do to your body and how they happen.

And I don’t want to sound cynical, but because it was about physiological reactions in human beings, discovered by, you know, two men — it was many more men, and it was women, too, but the two people who got, I think the most credit, and deservedly, were men who were lab scientists — it had more credibility in our society than talking about weathering and lived experience and racism.

GD: I want to go back to your Jenga metaphor. If weathering is this process by which the blocks are pulled away and your health becomes more and more tenuous, is there any way to put the blocks back?

AG: It’s hard to say. I certainly don’t believe that there isn’t anything that can be done. One thing that can be done and is done — and this benefits in particular people who are weathered but in the middle class or more highly educated — is access to healthcare. So you may be hypertensive from weathering but if you have good access to healthcare, you get diagnosed early, you get it treated. You learn what you need to do with your diet to make it a little less likely to turn into its more pernicious and life-threatening form. We’ve seen evidence, in some of our studies where we’ve compared blacks in very high-poverty areas to blacks in more middle-class neighborhoods, and what we’ve seen is that those in the higher-class neighborhoods do have much longer life expectancy than those in the poor neighborhoods. But they spend most of that extra life with chronic conditions and possibly disabled. Or, with a variety of morbidities than whites with the same incomes and educations, living in the same neighborhoods. So certainly, having a longer life expectancy and averting death and averting hypertension, or diabetes, or their complications are good things. But without dealing with the kind of more structurally rooted factors that lead to weathering across class, we’re not going to end weathering.

via Making The Case That Discrimination Is Bad For Your Health : Code Switch : NPR

Perception vs. reality: Why negative views of Islam should be challenged – Sheema Khan

Another good column by Khan, presenting the positive side of Canadian Muslims:

Jan. 29 will mark one year from the evening that six Muslim worshippers were massacred at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City. Nineteen were injured, children were left fatherless and wives widowed.

The atrocity resulted in an outpouring of support for traumatized Muslims across the country. That did not last long, however. Human-rights activist Bernie Farber and Mira Sucharov, associate professor of political science at Carleton University, have chronicled hateful incidents directed at Muslims during the rest of 2017. As they wrote in an opinion piece: “It was as though the Jan. 29 killings had never happened.” In one example, students at a Mississauga elementary school were subject to religious epithets from demonstrators denouncing Islam and prayer rooms. The year concluded with Muslim worshippers in Quebec worried once again about their safety. Quebec-based TVA falsely reported that a Montreal mosque barred female construction workers near its premises on Fridays during prayer sessions, leading to alleged hate-filled invective and death threats directed at the mosque. The network later apologized for the baseless report.

Surely these isolated incidents do not reflect the majority view. Or do they?

In November, the Angus Reid Institute released a poll indicating that nearly half of Canadians believe that “the presence of Islam in their country’s public life is damaging.” No other religion faces such widespread contempt. Let it sink in. If you do not hold a negative view of Islam, then someone in your immediate circle does.

Yet the perception of Islam is so different from the lived reality of Canadian Muslims. Some have a cultural affiliation to the faith. For others, the attachment is deeper. Across the diverse spectrum of belief, it can be argued that basic Islamic teachings contribute richly to our collective social fabric.

Sadaqah (charity) is ingrained in Islam. Muslims perennially organize drives to clothe, shelter and feed fellow Canadians. Mohamad Fakih answered a call from fellow business person Jennifer Evans to provide hotel rooms and meals for 18 homeless people in Toronto during the recent deep freeze. Islamic Relief Canada, a national charity, has launched a similar campaign.

Muslims have responded to natural disasters (e.g., flooding in Quebec and Ontario and fires in Fort McMurray, Alta.) with their time, money and emotional support. They have raised funds for hospitals and joined neighbours to clean parks. Last year, Ottawa’s Muslim community quickly collected $23,000 to fund extracurricular activities and resources for public schools lacking a school council.

The Islamic pillar of fasting, observed during the month of Ramadan, inculcates discipline, empathy, gratefulness and generosity. This year, take the opportunity to join in the sunset meal (which ends the daily fast) and experience the beauty of human fellowship.

The Koran states that saving one life is akin to saving all of humanity. In 2017, two Canadian Muslims personified this noble teaching.

Aymen Derbali directly faced the gunman at the Quebec City mosque to divert him from killing others. He was shot multiple times and lay in a coma for two months. The father of three is now paralyzed, yet grateful for the generosity of Canadians in helping him find a home that accommodates his disability.

Yosif Al-Hasnawi, a 19-year-old student at Brock University, was shot to death outside an Islamic centre as he tried to help a stranger who was being attacked by two men. The good Samaritan had just left the centre after participating in a celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.

Another important Islamic tenet is forgiveness. Al Salam mosque in Fort Smith, Ark., was vandalized in 2016 by three men, including Abraham Davis, who later wrote a letter of apology to the mosque from jail. The mosque board advocated forgiveness and opposed the charges against him. Nonetheless, Mr. Davis was fined and ordered to stay away from the mosque and its members. He posted a gracious note of thanks on Facebook. One member replied: “Bro move on with life we forgave you from the first time you apologized don’t let that mistake bring you down. I speak for the whole Muslim community of fort smith we love you and want you to be the best example in life we don’t hold grudges against anybody!” The story didn’t end there. Unable to pay his fine, Mr. Davis was set to enter jail for six years. The mosque intervened and paid the full amount. The members want him to succeed.

In the coming weeks, mosques across the country will hold open houses. Take an opportunity to peek in. Get to know Muslims who are your neighbours, co-workers and fellow Canadians.

And then ask yourself if Islam is damaging to Canadian society.

via Perception vs. reality: Why negative views of Islam should be challenged – The Globe and Mail

The year since the mosque shooting has made amnesiacs out of Quebec’s political class: Martin Patriquin

Another reminder by Patriquin of one of convenient forgetfulness:

On the morning of Jan. 31, 2017, with camera in hand, I walked into the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. Less than 48 hours before, a gunman had walked into the centre, killing six and injuring 19. Once the police had finished their work, mosque administrators opened the doors to journalists, if only to show firsthand the often-visceral consequences of unchecked hatred and ignorance.

It was like the aftermath of war. Men and women parishioners wandered around, dazed and weeping. Bullets, dozens of them, had splintered drywall and shattered glass. And blood was everywhere: on the carpet and prayer rugs, on the Linoleum floor outside the main room, caking the stairs to the basement and circling a storage closet drain. It smeared windows and pooled in sinks. I left with it on my boots.

‘Senseless violence’

The province’s political leaders were immediately and appropriately sombre. Quebecers “must avoid words and gestures that separate, divide and attract hate,” said Premier Philippe Couillard. François Legault, leader of the conservative Coalition Avenir Québec, expressed his solidarity in the face of “senseless violence” with Quebec’s Muslim community. Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée said the most by stating the obvious. “It’s not easy to be a Muslim in the 21st century,” he told reporters.

If time weakens emotions and fades memories, the year since the shooting has made amnesiacs out of Quebec’s political class. Last week, the National Council of Canadian Muslims asked the federal government to designate Jan. 29 as a national day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia. In Quebec, the idea of questioning exactly why the shooting took place was largely met with shrugs or worse.

Both the PQ and the CAQ quickly opposed such a thing. “I think we’ve debated the divisions surrounding the presence of religion enough in Quebec,” PQ MNA Agnès Maltais told Le Devoir. The governing Liberals, who harvest the vast majority of the province’s Muslim vote come election day, utterly waffled on the idea.

Once aghast at the many Muslim victims who had done nothing but gather for prayers, these politicians now declared the deliberate targeting of Muslims passé — an isolated incident perpetuated by a crazy man. “Quebecers are open and welcoming, they are not Islamophobic,” said a CAQ spokesperson. (Only Québec solidaire, the Montreal-centric lefty redoubt, came out in favour of the NCCM proposal.)

Clearly, the amnesia stretches beyond the last year. On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lépine walked into Montreal’s École Polytechnique and killed 14 women before turning his gun on himself. Like Alexandre Bissonnette, the man currently on trial for last year’s mosque massacre, Lépine was more than just a crazy man with a gun. He harboured a deep resentment of women, which he weaponized and made homicidal in the classrooms and corridors of Polytechnique.

The Polytechnique shootings sparked a societal debate in the province about gender, feminism and the extent of institutional misogyny in Quebec society, purportedly one of the more equalitarian in the country. It was a painful but wholly necessary exercise, one commemorated by the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

At first glance, it might be difficult to see why most Quebec politicians are ambivalent at best about a similar exercise for Muslims in Quebec and beyond. Lépine blamed feminists for his problems. Bissonnette left an online trail of anti-Muslim rhetoric before the mosque shootings. And as with Polytechnique 28 years earlier, the mosque shootings were but the bloodiest example of institutional enmity against an identifiable group.

Crimes targeting Muslims

Police-reported hate crimes against Muslims in Canada tripled between 2012 and 2015, according to Statistics Canada. In Quebec City, crimes targeting Muslims have doubled since the mosque shootings, according to the city’s police chief.

Apart from being alarming, such statistics are fodder for Muslim extremists, who use society-wide anti-Muslim animus as a recruiting tool. If this is the case, these extremists have a veritable wellspring of recruiting material in Quebec City’s many populist (and enduringly popular) radio stations, which — with a few notable exceptions — remain largely anti-Muslim and anti-immigration a year after the mosque shootings.

A week after the deadly shooting at a mosque, hundreds took to the streets of Quebec City to honour the victims. 1:54

For its politicians, perhaps it’s less about amnesia than Quebec’s own brand of crass identity politics. The three main political parties are locked in a battle for the hearts and votes of Quebec’s lily-white, lapsed Catholic hinterland in Quebec City and beyond — everywhere, it seems, save for Montreal. The dynamics are such that even the Liberals, who have a lock on the non-Francophone vote, can demonize Montreal’s multicultural reality.

In 2013, the PQ government attempted to ban “conspicuous” religious symbols from the bodies of anyone drawing a government paycheque. Though it failed, the ensuing Liberal government last year passed a ban on face coverings for anyone giving or receiving a government service. Only Québec solidaire protested the law’s blatant targeting of Quebec’s Muslim minority. Everyone else said it didn’t go far enough.

A year ago, these very politicians professed shock and sadness at a murderous hate crime perpetrated on their watch. Demonstrably, as Quebec approaches a fall election, political reality has pushed this emotion aside. Maybe they didn’t forget the tragedy. Maybe they just don’t want to be reminded of the reasons behind it.

via The year since the mosque shooting has made amnesiacs out of Quebec’s political class | CBC News