Finally, the announcement of the new process for selecting federally-appointed judges. No real surprise given the ministerial mandates letters. Still nothing (yet) and regular reporting:

The Liberal government has announced a new judicial appointment process that emphasizes gender and racial diversity.

One of the key changes unveiled on Thursday specifies that governments and independent legal groups that pick the members of the committees that screen candidates “will be asked to take into account the need to ensure [the committees] are representative of the diversity of Canada,” according to a justice department backgrounder. All members of the screening committees will get training on diversity, unconscious bias and assessment of merit, the backgrounder says. A federal agency will keep track of the demographic makeup of applicants. Until now, applications have been tabulated only by gender, not race.

As part of the process, applicants will have to fill out more detailed application forms than they do now. In these forms, applicants will detail their abilities in Canada’s two official languages, and they may be tested on their proficiency.

Another set of modifications will undo changes the Harper government made to the process. The Conservatives had put a police representative on the judicial advisory committees that screen judges for federally appointed courts (such as provincial superior courts, the Federal Court and Tax Court). They had also taken away the vote of a judge on those committees, which had given the federal appointees a voting majority. And the Conservatives had taken away the judicial advisory committees’ ability to “highly recommend” applicants; they could only recommend (or not). The government will remove the police representative, return the vote to the judge and re-establish the “highly recommended” category.

Applicants who applied under the previous process will have to re-apply, but on Thursday, the government announced the appointments of 24 judges under the existing process.

The Liberals have come under fire from the legal community because they appointed just 15 judges in their first year in power, during which judicial vacancies reached 61. That’s more than at any time during Stephen Harper’s decade in power, records show. When Mr. Harper stopped appointing judges in the summer of 2015, before the federal election, there were a little more than a dozen vacancies.

Backlogs in criminal, civil and family cases have risen in some provinces, especially in Alberta and Nova Scotia.


And the announcement of 24 judicial appointments:

After months of criticism for not acting fast enough to appoint much-needed judges across the country, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced 24 judicial appointments Thursday. 

“We have moved to fill urgent judicial vacancies by drawing on existing lists of recommended candidates,” the minister said in a statement. “The government is confident in the outstanding quality of these appointees and their dedication to delivering just outcomes for Canadians.”

Justice system can’t wait for judicial appointments review, say judges

Trudeau government has backlog of more than 300 appointments

Of the 24 new appointees, 14 are women and two are Indigenous. (No visible minorities are mentioned but need to doublecheck).


And for the list (I will be doing an analysis later as am travelling):

Source: (separate links by Federal Court and Provincial Courts)

Advisory group’s economic blueprint calls for dramatic increase in immigration, foreign investment, infrastructure bank

The focus on immigration of note. 450,000 would be about 1.3 percent (current level for 2016 is 305,000).

The upcoming immigration levels plan, expected next month, will provide an indication whether or not the government will support this recommendation and if so, to what extent, as there appears to be a lively debate within the government.

Equally significant will be the mix of economic, family and refugee classes. The report’s recommendation essentially means that any increase should be with respect to the economic class of immigrants, not family or refugee class:

A group of external advisers to Finance Minister Bill Morneau will call on the government this week to dramatically increase the level of immigration and foreign investment coming in to Canada to stimulate a sluggish economy in future years.

Their recommendations include increasing immigration by 50 per cent to 450,000 people annually over five years while easing the process for high-skilled and entrepreneurial foreigners to come here; building a new department to entice foreign direct investment into Canada; and creating an arm’s length infrastructure bank. The recommendations were confirmed by several senior sources who spoke with The Globe and Mail.

…The 14-member Advisory Council on Economic Growth, chaired by Dominic Barton, global managing director of the consultancy McKinsey & Co., will deliver its first three recommendations to Mr. Morneau in Ottawa on Thursday. The council, which includes venture capitalists, institutional investors, business executives and academics, plans to present up to 20 ideas in the coming months intended to help Canada boost economic growth beyond forecast levels of less than 2 per cent annually through 2030.

The minister is expected to announce plans to act on at least one of the recommendations in his fall fiscal update, sources said. “My sense is [the government is] keen to receive these recommendations as soon as possible,” said one source close to the council. “That probably tells you they want to do something.”

…Expanding and improving the immigration process would address a key concern raised by fast-growing Canadian tech companies. Many say visa approval times for foreigners with high-level executive experience or in-demand skills can drag on for up to a year, and that coveted recruits who would otherwise move to Canada are not willing to put their lives on hold for so long when they have multiple opportunities. As a result, many tech firms say they have either lost out on key hires, or been forced to have such people work for them outside Canada.

“The current immigration process is overwhelmingly convoluted – even Kafkaesque,” said Tobi Lutke, CEO of Ottawa-based retail software firm Shopify, Inc., which is hiring hundreds of people this year and has lost recruits because of immigration delays. “The people we need to bring to Canada are not building widgets that Canadians otherwise would. The people we are recruiting … are the teachers that help us scale [up]. If we want to build the best companies in the world here, we need to allow the best people in the world to move here.”

Such thinking has guided panel members, who believe that increasing immigration and making it easier for skilled foreigners to move to Canada can increase the pool of people with the training, ambition and drive to create substantial economic value and help support Canada’s aging population. For example, a recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy said more than half of Silicon Valley startups valued at $1-billion (U.S.) or more were founded by immigrants.

The panel is calling for employers in technology and other expanding sectors to be exempt from the time-consuming process of proving no Canadian could do a job they want to offer to foreigners for senior positions or specialized roles, such as data science or digital marketing. Foreign students who have studied in Canada should have an easier time immigrating, the council also believes.

….The council and government officials are anticipating some resistance to the recommendations.

Immigration Minister John McCallum and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains say they support more immigration, but acknowledge facing some opposition from within the government. Several recent polls – including one conducted for Mr. McCallum’s department – found little support for increased immigration.

Mr. McCallum said in an interview on Tuesday that he is not prepared to go as high as 450,000. But he suggested the number will rise from current levels of 300,000 when the government releases its 2017 immigration targets by Nov. 1. “This is a somewhat controversial issue, especially when you talk about numbers that high,” he said. The minister said no final decisions have been made.

Source: Advisory group’s economic blueprint calls for dramatic increase in immigration, foreign investment, infrastructure bank – The Globe and Mail

Glenn Gould offers lessons for Apple, and Ottawa, on innovation

Interesting piece (have seen earlier articles on Gould’s influence at Apple but not with this angle to the current Canadian innovation strategy policy discussions):

Institutionalizing the nebulous concept of innovation won’t be easy. Jobs himself faced a similar challenge when he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in his pancreas in 2004, forcing him to contemplate a day when he would no longer be able to terrorize Apple’s designers and engineers. In 2008, he quietly began laying the groundwork for Apple University by hiring Joel Podolny, the dean of Yale’s school of management. “The idea was to take what is unique about Apple and create a forum that can impart that DNA to future generations of Apple employees,” a former Apple executive told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. “No other company has a university charged with probing so deeply into the roots of what makes the company so successful.”

[Joshua] Cohen’s presentation on Gould is just one of several he gives at the university, where he’s now employed full-time. It’s part of a series called  “The Best Things”—a reference to a remark that Jobs once made about “trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done, and then try to bring those things into what you’re doing.” His first presentation in the series was about New York’s Central Park, which was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to show that America could create beautiful, natural public spaces that rivalled the best of Europe. Gould, by contrast, created a thing of beauty by reinterpreting the baroque work of a German composer who was widely seen as a touch old fashioned, even by his contemporaries.

Equally as compelling for Apple employees is Gould’s forward thinking attitude about technology. Gould once told an interviewer in 1966 that live audiences were a “force of evil” because pleasing them took precedence over his pursuit of perfection. “I really thank God that I’m able to sit in a studio with enormous concentration and do things many times, if necessary,” he said. “I think a whole new role has been opened in this way.” Bob Ezrin, the Canadian music producer known for his work with Pink Floyd, Lou Reed and Taylor Swift among others, (and, to a different demographic, for sparking a Twitter war earlier this year with rapper Kanye West), says Gould was way ahead of his time. “He was the first guy to edit classical performances,” he says. “That was just anathema to the classical world. Edit multi-track recordings? This was stuff that was only beginning to happen in popular recording because performers couldn’t do it all in one take.”

If it all sounds a touch pedantic for a company that builds smartphones, recall that Jobs credited part of the original Mac’s success on his decision to study calligraphy at Reed College in Portland, OR. “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,” he said during a 2005 commencement address at Stanford. “And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.” This is also a man who once said, shortly before his death, that great technology by itself wasn’t sufficient to make great products: “It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.”

At its core, Cohen says Apple’s mission is indeed to develop products that should be built, not finding a way to shoehorn every piece of new technology into people’s lives, wanted or not. “They [Apple products] enable people to do things that are good to do,” he says, adding it’s not all that different from Gould’s effort to create a moment of pure musical bliss. “You’re trying to do something that’s great and animated by a big idea,” says Cohen. “But what makes it great is there’s an important human good at stake in it.”

It sounds straightforward enough. But it’s remarkable how many tech firms allow the cord to wag the computer. Google, for all its success, is frequently guilty of packing unnecessary functions into its products, making them unnecessarily difficult to use. An Apple University professor apparently once used a Google TV remote control as an example of what not to do at Apple, according to the Times. It had no fewer than 78 buttons. Meanwhile, other up-and-coming tech giants often seem more interested in disrupting entrenched industries than they are in serving their customers. The increasingly heated debate over short-term rental platform Airbnb is a case in point, with some arguing it’s contributing to a housing crisis by convincing landlords it’s more profitable to rent to tourists than tenants.

So what, if anything, can Ottawa learn from Gould as it seeks to implement its “Innovation Agenda?” He obviously didn’t have much to say about the value of “innovation clusters” or the appropriate tax policy when it comes to stock options. But, Cohen says, he’s confident Gould wouldn’t think much of trying to replicate, pixel for pixel, Silicon Valley’s stunning success.  “Gould himself would say, almost in these words, ‘There’s no point performing something that’s been performed a thousand times before unless you do it differently,’” Cohen says. At the same time, however, the secret to Gould’s success was his dogged insistence to make sure what he did was worth doing, and that he did it to the best of his abilities—even if some thought he was being completely unreasonable in the process. Says Cohen: “That kind of comes with the territory of doing something that’s different and truly great.”

How Trudeau can bring diversity to Supreme Court: Ranjan Agarwal

Some good practical suggestions. The ones I favour include publishing the demographics of applicants and focussing efforts on improving the diversity of other judicial level appointments, where the potential pool is larger.

The easing of the official languages requirement is a non-starter, so those with judicial ambitions should make knowledge of both official languages part of their education.

Needless to say – but I keep saying it – the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada should include in its reporting, the number of visible minority and Indigenous judges, not just women:

So, can this missed opportunity be salvaged? Yes, if the prime minister takes four steps.

First, he should make clear that Justice Rowe was appointed because he was the best Canadian for the job, not the best Atlantic Canadian. In doing so, he would affirm that his next appointment in September 2018 does not have to be from British Columbia (since Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, who will retire then, notionally holds that seat on the Court), leaving open the possibility of appointing an aboriginal or minority judge from outside B.C.

In particular, the current convention does not allow for the appointment of a Northern Canadian, even though the courts in the territories are some of the most diverse in Canada.

Second, the prime minister should publish demographic statistics of the applicants for this appointment. How many women applied? Self-identified minorities? Aboriginals? Non-Atlantic Canadians? How many judges? How many lawyers? The problem with promising diverse appointments is that the talent pool at the senior levels of the bar or on the trial and appeal benches may simply not be there. Demographic statistics allow the government and the legal profession to consider where more work must be done to create a pool of good, diverse candidates.

Third, the prime minister should revisit (though not necessarily reconsider) the “functional bilingualism” requirement. Potential applicants have two years to immerse themselves in French-language training. But the government should test whether the bilingualism requirement had a disproportionate impact on aboriginal and immigrant communities, where French-language education may not have been a priority for their parents.

Finally, the prime minister should disproportionally fill the 60 other judicial vacancies with qualified women, aboriginal and minority judges. A more diverse Supreme Court is, in many ways, symbolic. The real work of the justice system happens in our trial courts — that may be the only interaction many Canadians have with a judge.

After every hearing, the Court’s justices gather over lunch to discuss their views on the appeal. The appointment of Bertha Wilson in 1982 surely changed the discussion around that table about many issues, including perhaps most importantly abortion, gender rights and spousal abuse.

The appointment of an aboriginal or minority judge will have the same impact, providing a much needed perspective on novel issues facing an increasingly diverse Canada and in an age of truth and reconciliation. Our justice system is the finest the world has ever known. But, sometimes, not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done.

Source: How Trudeau can bring diversity to Supreme Court | Toronto Star

Advocates for minority Supreme Court judge disappointed by Trudeau’s pick

Understandable reactions but equally understandable that the government chose to give priority to regional representation and bilingualism.

However, it will be more important to assess the diversity of future appointments to the lower courts, which I expect will include visible minorities and Indigenous peoples (as did with the initial 15 appointments).

And nice to see my IRPP article, Diversity among federal and provincial judges – Policy Options,  continues to provide useful background data:

The Liberal government may have made history by nominating a Newfoundlander to Canada’s top court — but disappointed advocates say a more critical opportunity has been missed to add racial diversity to Canada’s predominantly white judiciary.

“It’s another white male . . . It’s the exact thing we’ve been doing for years,” said Koren Lightening-Earle, president of the Indigenous Bar Association, adding she would have been “borderline happy with any person of colour.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Justice Malcolm Rowe from Newfoundland and Labrador has been nominated for the Supreme Court of Canada. If formally named to the court, it will be a historic first for the province.

However, scholars and aboriginal jurists had hoped Trudeau’s new selection process might set aside the constitutional convention of regionally based appointments, and focus on putting an aboriginal or black judge into the job.

Lightening-Earle said while Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have waited a number of decades for a representative on the court, aboriginal Canadians have deeper historic claims to a place in the judiciary.

“They (Newfoundland and Labrador residents) have been waiting a long time, but we’ve been waiting a little bit longer,” she said.

Lightening-Earle said in a telephone interview a rare opportunity has been missed, and indigenous lawyers are wondering why they bothered applying to the government’s advisory board for the position.

A report in Policy Options magazine estimated earlier this year that just one per cent of Canada’s 2,160 judges in the provincial superior and lower courts are aboriginal, while 3 per cent are racial minorities — prompting a Dalhousie University law professor to describe the Canadian bench as a “judiciary of whiteness.”

Robert Wright, a black social worker who has served on a Nova Scotia board that recommends judicial appointments, said the announcement is a disappointment given the Trudeau government’s earlier signals it might adjust the system.

“There are an increasing number of Canadians who . . . are not caught up in what I call the historical regional nature of the various Canadian identities we used to focus on,” he said in a telephone interview from Halifax.

Wright argues the principle of diversity that lies beneath appointing people from different regions needed to be shifted to recognize the increasing number of Canadians from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds.

He said as a black Nova Scotian he would have been content to see a black person from any part of the country elevated to the bench, and he also would have been very pleased if an aboriginal judge was appointed.

Wright and Lightening-Earle say the country is losing out on the opportunity to gain from indigenous perspectives on everything from constitutional issues to sentencing to the factors that lead to crime.

Jeffery Hewitt, a legal scholar at the University of Windsor, said he doesn’t accept arguments that there may be a lack of qualified candidates.

“Tell us who applied. Give us the list. Talk to us about . . . whether there were any indigenous people in there?” said Hewitt, a Cree who has provided legal advice to First Nations.

A spokeswoman for the federal Justice Department said the independent advisory board that recommends candidates to the prime minister’s office “will be reporting on this information one month from (an) appointment.”

Hewitt said he’s hopeful that going forward, the Liberals will make more appointments to the superior courts in the provinces.

In Quebec, the Policy Options study noted three visible minority judges out of more than 500, despite bar society figures showing more than 1,800 of its roughly 25,000 lawyers identify themselves as being from visible minority groups. The province said it doesn’t keep figures.

In Ontario, one of the few provinces where the judicial advisory body keeps figures on the lower court appointments, there were 24 visible minority judges out of 334 judges, even though one quarter of the province’s overall population identifies as a visible minority.

There are no visible minorities on the bench in Newfoundland and Labrador, which by constitutional convention was the likeliest province to be tapped for the next Supreme Court of Canada appointment.

Source: Advocates for minority Supreme Court judge disappointed by Trudeau’s pick | Toronto Star

Turnbull rebukes Labor over citizenship questions, saying ‘get on Australia’s team’ | The Guardian

Never a good idea to make this kind of accusation, reflects poorly on the accuser:

Malcolm Turnbull has attempted to shut down questions from Labor about the validity of the government’s citizenship revocation laws by borrowing a locution from the Abbott era and advising the shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus to “get on Australia’s team”.

In question time on Monday Labor referenced a media report saying a “notorious terrorist” was set to have their citizenship revoked in the first case to be taken under the government’s citizenship revocation laws.

The report suggested the government was anticipating the move would be tested in the high court.

Dreyfus asked the prime minister whether the case referenced in the Daily Telegraph report would proceed under the same legislation where the attorney general had “incorrectly represented advice from the solicitor-general?”

The solicitor general, Justin Gleeson – courtesy of a bitter public dispute with the attorney general, George Brandis – has said very clearly he did not sign off on the final citizenship bill passed by the parliament, an account which cuts across a suggestion made by Brandis at the time that Gleeson had advised the government its citizenship revocation package had a good prospect of clearing the high court.

“What the shadow attorney general is now doing is taking his feud with the attorney general into an area where he is putting our national security at risk,” Turnbull told parliament on Monday.

The prime minister said Dreyfus needed to “get over these petty personal animosities and get on our team, get on Australia’s team, to ensure that we have the right legislation”.

Source: Turnbull rebukes Labor over citizenship questions, saying ‘get on Australia’s team’ | Australia news | The Guardian

Canada’s diversity model should be defended, not denounced: Hébert

Hébert on Canada’s model of multiculturalism and integration.

Not sure which proponents she is referring to that are not arguing in the model’s favour – there appears to be a fair amount of commentary from both perspectives among the commentariat, and as she notes, the vast majority of Canadian political leaders do argue in its favour:

And yes, it includes most of what one could describe as the country’s political elite. Canada’s federal, provincial and municipal leaders do sit at the top of the pyramid. But it is voters that put them there.

All this is to say that Canada should embrace rather than brace for a challenge to its immigration and integration model.

It is not as if the discussion is going to go away just because it has the potential to be divisive.

This is a debate that already invited itself in the last Quebec and federal elections.

If anything, the refusal of many proponents of Canada’s approach to cultural diversity to argue for it on its merits only weakens their case.

One cannot simultaneously set Canada up as a model to the world and refuse to defend the country’s approach to cultural diversity at home for fear of shattering the societal consensus that sustains it.

In the late ’80s, the Reform party threw down the gauntlet at the supporters of official bilingualism. Preston Manning believed he could tap in to the frustrations of a silent (unilingual) majority.

The Reformers’ opponents castigated them for calling for a debate on Canada’s language policy. This is a boat — they said — that no responsible politician should want to rock.

And yet the discussion the Reform party forced on its rivals ended up strengthening Canada’s linguistic duality.

In time, Manning lost his leadership in no small part because he was unable to become bilingual enough to campaign efficiently in French — and unable to convince enough Canadians that it should not matter.

Source: Canada’s diversity model should be defended, not denounced: Hébert | Toronto Star

President Obama explains the difference between Silicon Valley and the real world – Recode

To be noted:

The final thing I’ll say is that government will never run the way Silicon Valley runs because, by definition, democracy is messy. This is a big, diverse country with a lot of interests and a lot of disparate points of view. And part of government’s job, by the way, is dealing with problems that nobody else wants to deal with.

So sometimes I talk to CEOs, they come in and they start telling me about leadership, and here’s how we do things. And I say, well, if all I was doing was making a widget or producing an app, and I didn’t have to worry about whether poor people could afford the widget, or I didn’t have to worry about whether the app had some unintended consequences — setting aside my Syria and Yemen portfolio — then I think those suggestions are terrific. (Laughter and applause.) That’s not, by the way, to say that there aren’t huge efficiencies and improvements that have to be made.

But the reason I say this is sometimes we get, I think, in the scientific community, the tech community, the entrepreneurial community, the sense of we just have to blow up the system, or create this parallel society and culture because government is inherently wrecked. No, it’s not inherently wrecked; it’s just government has to care for, for example, veterans who come home. That’s not on your balance sheet, that’s on our collective balance sheet, because we have a sacred duty to take care of those veterans. And that’s hard and it’s messy, and we’re building up legacy systems that we can’t just blow up.

Source: President Obama explains the difference between Silicon Valley and the real world – Recode

Tailor immigrant and refugee mental health services for culture, language, report urges

Hard to argue with the overall message of tailoring programming to communities at greater risk but given that government’s need to choose where to allocate resources, I would place more emphasis on improved settlement services to reduce mental health issues.

The article, if not the report, is also silent that many immigrants may be reluctant to access mental health services:

Canada must match its multicultural, open-door immigration policy with tailored mental health services or face inflated costs for crisis care down the road, warns a new report being released today.

The sweeping study by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, obtained by CBC News, finds that immigrants generally arrive with better mental health than the Canadian-born population — something referred to as the “healthy immigrant effect.”

But their condition tends to deteriorate over time, and they don’t get help due to stigma, fear of being removed from the country, or a lack of treatment that meets their cultural or language needs.

Refugees afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression are even less likely to access services.

The report says Canada must “urgently” develop a mental health strategy aimed at boosting service uptake, on the grounds of both equity and cost-efficiency.

Reduce overall costs

“By working to reduce disparities in access to services, the appropriateness of services used, and mental health outcomes, Canada can reduce overall system costs,” the report concludes.

Failure to access early treatment leads to more expensive emergency department visits or hospital admissions. There are also indirect economic effects, such as lost productivity and costs to the criminal justice system.

Entitled “The Case for Diversity,” the report calls for greater investment in programs and treatments that are adapted for culture and language and tailored to trauma and migration stress.

Dr. Kwame McKenzie — director of health equity at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto, and one of the report’s authors — said a newcomer’s ability to make money, land a job, learn the language and find housing and social supports are key factors in mental health.

Mental health problems can often be prevented by easing the resettlement process and breaking down barriers to early treatment, he added.

Early intervention, reduced costs

“If you have evidence-based interventions and they have easy access to it, we’ll be able to get people better and get them on their way,” McKenzie said.

Yet despite evidence early intervention not only helps outcomes and cuts costs over time, a study of data in Ontario in the report shows a “stark disparity” in service use. Only 6.3 per cent of refugees access treatment, compared to 9.6 per cent of immigrants and 12.5 per cent of non-immigrant Canadians.

Pointing to the intake of Syrian refugees to Canada, McKenzie said positive resettlement steps that have been taken could help mitigate mental health problems.

“I think for the Syrian refugees, there’s a lot of evidence accruing that the response, and the particular response in Canada, has been really good,” he said. “So it may be that we’ll see lower levels of mental health problems than we’ve had in other groups because of that.”

Culturally adapted programs

“The Case for Diversity” project reviewed 408 studies involving 41,920 people, offering “significant evidence” that culturally adapted therapies are more effective than programs targeting culturally mixed groups.

“Diversity has been a hallmark of contemporary Canadian society and it should be foundational to the planning and delivery of mental health services at all levels,” the report concludes.

“Meeting the needs of IRER [immigrant, refugee, ethno-cultural and racialized] populations is an urgent priority for the Canadian mental health system and its service providers.”

Source: Tailor immigrant and refugee mental health services for culture, language, report urges – Politics – CBC News

Quebec: Des points de vue divergents sur la laïcité de l’État

Some initial commentary before the start of Quebec’s hearings on Bill 62, which bans face covering (i.e., niqab, burka)in the delivery and reception of public services:

Des points de vue opposés se feront entendre lors des consultations qui s’amorcent mardi en commission parlementaire sur le projet de loi 62 favorisant le respect de la neutralité religieuse de l’État et visant notamment à encadrer les demandes d’encadrements religieux dans certains organismes, réponse du gouvernement Couillard au projet péquiste de charte de la laïcité.

« C’est un débat qui divise mais qui fait avancer, comme les débats sur l’avortement, sur la peine de mort ou sur l’aide médicale à mourir », a souligné la juriste Julie Latour, qui comparaîtra en commission parlementaire au nom du regroupement Juristes pour la laïcité et la neutralité religieuse de l’État.

La Commission des institutions a prévu neuf jours d’audiences cet automne au cours desquelles 42 groupes et individus seront entendus, un nombre qui est appelé à augmenter puisque l’horaire prévoit des ajouts.

C’est la quatrième fois que le gouvernement québécois tente de faire adopter un projet de loi pour préciser la neutralité religieuse de l’État et définir des balises pour l’octroi d’accommodements raisonnables dans le secteur public et parapublic. Les deux projets de loi précédents, 63 et 94, présentés par le gouvernement Charest ont été abandonnés tandis que la défaite du Parti québécois en 2014 a clos l’épisode du projet de loi 60 sur la charte « affirmant les valeurs de laïcité » défendu par le gouvernement Marois.

À l’entrée du Conseil des ministres mercredi dernier, la ministre de la Justice, Stéphanie Vallée, qui pilote le projet de loi 62 a indiqué que le gouvernement avait en main « des avis juridiques solides » à l’appui de cette nouvelle tentative législative. Elle a dit souhaiter que le nouveau chef de l’opposition officielle, Jean-François Lisée, reste fidèle aux propos qu’il a tenus lors de la course à la chefferie : le candidat jugeait que le projet de loi était un pas en avant et qu’il fallait l’adopter.

Pour Louis-Philippe Lampron, professeur de droit à l’Université Laval, le projet de loi 62 consiste pour l’essentiel en « une redite » du projet de loi 94 présenté en 2010. « C’est essentiellement une codification du droit canadien actuel sur la neutralité religieuse de l’État », estime-t-il. À cela s’ajoute la même disposition que dans le projet de loi 94 sur l’obligation d’avoir le visage découvert pour fournir ou recevoir des services de l’État, que ce soit dans les écoles, dans les centres de la petite enfance (CPE) et les garderies subventionnées, dans le réseau de la santé et pour les autres services publics. Un accommodement à ce sujet devra être refusé pour « des motifs portant sur la sécurité, l’identification ou le niveau de communication requis ». Mentionnons qu’il n’est aucunement question de signes religieux.
Au moment des consultations sur le projet de loi 94, la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ) avait exprimé un « malaise » relativement à cette interdiction qui portait, sans le dire, sur des signes religieux. « On peut même dire que ça vise explicitement un symbole religieux d’une religion [l’islam] », a fait observer Louis-Philippe Lampron. « Il y a des raisons de croire que ça pourrait être contesté. » Ou que l’interdiction ne s’applique pas en raison de l’octroi d’accommodements.
Pour sa part, Me Julius Grey, bien qu’il s’oppose au multiculturalisme et qu’il soit en faveur de la laïcité, est contre l’interdiction des signes religieux, sauf pour les agents de l’État qui détiennent un pouvoir de coercition (juges, policiers, agents correctionnels, etc.), comme le recommandait la commission Bouchard-Taylor. Il trouve inconcevable qu’on puisse priver quelqu’un de soins médicaux, quelles que soient les circonstances.
Pour Julie Latour, le projet de loi 62 est « un jalon ». À ses yeux, il manque à la neutralité religieuse de l’État et à la laïcité un socle juridique qui passe par l’enchâssement de leur principe dans la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne.

Source: Des points de vue divergents sur la laïcité de l’État | Le Devoir

Some of the notable absences from the hearings:

Faux départ pour la commission parlementaire sur le projet de loi 62 concernant la neutralité religieuse de l’État. Une vingtaine de groupes et d’experts que les députés voulaient entendre ont décliné l’invitation. Et pas les moindres : notamment Gérard Bouchard et Charles Taylor, qui ont présidé la commission sur les accommodements religieux.

La ministre de la Justice, Stéphanie Vallée, y voit malgré tout une bonne nouvelle. Le refus de tous ces groupes «envoie un signal qu’ils sont confortables avec la version présentée par le gouvernement, ce qui n’était pas le cas» pour le projet de charte des valeurs du Parti québécois, a soutenu sa porte-parole, Isabelle Marier St-Onge.

Or, en entrevue à La Presse, Gérard Bouchard a assuré qu’il n’a pas changé d’avis sur le port de signes religieux, une position qui va plus loin que ce que propose Mme Vallée. Comme on peut le lire dans le rapport de la commission qu’il a coprésidée, il recommande d’interdire ces signes chez les agents de l’État dotés d’un pouvoir de coercition (policiers, gardiens de prison, procureurs de la Couronne et juges). Le projet de loi 62 précise seulement que les services publics doivent être donnés et reçus à «visage découver», une mesure qui cible le voile intégral.

«Mes idées sur la laïcité sont bien connues, et je m’en tiens toujours aux propositions que nous avons émises il y a huit ans. Je n’aurais que répété ce qui est écrit dans le rapport pour l’opposer à ce qui peut être écrit dans le projet de loi. Je ne voyais pas mon utilité, parce que je n’ai rien à ajouter», affirme M. Bouchard.

 Horaire modifié

L’horaire des auditions, qui débutent mardi à Québec, a été revu à la toute dernière minute en raison des multiples refus de témoigner. Ce cafouillage est d’autant plus étonnant que le projet de loi 62 a été déposé par Mme Vallée il y a longtemps, en juin 2015.

Une vingtaine de groupes refusent de discuter de neutralité religieuse

And English language coverage in the Globe:

The new legislation, “An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for religious accommodation requests in certain bodies,” tabled by the Liberals last year, would make it illegal to give or receive government services if a person’s face is covered. Since no Quebec public employees mask their faces, according to the government, the bill would effectively target Muslim women who wear the niqab or burka.

 Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said when introducing the legislation that it was required “for security, identification and communication purposes.”

She has been unable to say how many women wear face veils in the province.

Bill 62 is the latest iteration of Quebec’s efforts to impose official secularism in the public domain (though the new legislation would allow the crucifix over the speaker’s chair in the National Assembly to remain in place).

The bill is seen as a more moderate version of the former Parti Québécois government’s derided “charter of values,” which had set out to ban turbans, kippas, head scarves and other religious displays among Quebec’s civil servants. The bill is believed to have contributed to the PQ’s defeat at the polls in 2014.

The Liberals’ bill would allow for religious accommodations as long as they fit certain sets of guidelines, such as being “consistent” with the equality of men and women.

Still, some groups question the need for the law and say it unfairly targets minority women, who could be excluded from accessing public services.

“How necessary is all of this?” Amira Elghawaby of the National Council of Canadian Muslims said. “How many women might actually be wearing the face veil in Quebec? I doubt that it’s a huge critical mass.” She said that re-opening the issue creates a “malaise.”

“There should really be no suspension of people’s human rights based on popular sentiment toward a religious practice,” Ms. Elghawaby said.

 Hearings to begin on proposed Quebec law targeting veiled women