Exorciser ses démons | Michèle Ouimet’s reflections on 10 years after the Bouchard-Taylor hearings

Good column by Ouimet, 10 years after the Bouchard-Taylor hearings, and the risks and rewards of having such open testimonies:

On l’oublie, mais la commission Bouchard-Taylor sur les accommodements raisonnables a été immensément populaire. Déversoirs des frustrations des Québécois, ses forums, pris d’assaut, étaient diffusés en direct à la télévision. C’était en 2007, avant la folie des réseaux sociaux.

Madeleine Poulin, ex-grande reporter à Radio-Canada, jouait le rôle de modératrice. Elle a sillonné les 17 régions du Québec et entendu les 764 témoignages.

L’entreprise était audacieuse, pour ne pas dire téméraire. Quand les gens prenaient le micro, Madeleine Poulin n’avait aucune idée de ce qu’ils allaient dire. Il n’y avait pas de filtre, pas de filet de sécurité, pas de pré-entrevue, rien.

« On leur donnait la parole sans savoir ce qu’ils allaient dire, m’a dit Madeleine Poulin. En direct, à la télévision. Je n’avais jamais vu ça. C’était un stress constant. Les commissaires [Gérard Bouchard et Charles Taylor] n’étaient pas très conscients de ce que ça représentait. Ils ne comprenaient pas la force de la télévision, encore moins les risques du direct. »

Environ 50 000 personnes étaient rivées à leur téléviseur pour écouter ce que monsieur et madame Tout-le-Monde avaient à dire. Un succès monstre pour RDI.

Un forum aussi ouvert est sans précédent dans le monde occidental, souligne Solange Lefebvre, titulaire de la Chaire de recherche en gestion de la diversité culturelle et religieuse à l’Université de Montréal.

« Une consultation publique sans filtre sur des sujets aussi explosifs ? C’était certainement hasardeux. »

– Solange Lefebvre

Il s’est dit quelques folies, sans oublier les antisémites et islamophobes de ce monde qui se ruaient sur le micro pour cracher leur venin.

Un homme a dit en parlant des immigrants : « Sacre ton camp et n’oublie pas de ramasser tes guenilles et tes ordures avec toi. »

Un autre a raconté : « J’ai vécu un an en Égypte parmi les musulmans, je les ai endurés, pis là, je m’aperçois que je dois les endurer encore. »

« Qu’est-ce qu’on va faire quand les Inuis [sic], au nom de leur religion, vont vouloir fumer le calumet de paix dans des endroits publics ? » a demandé un hurluberlu.

Du grand n’importe quoi.

Sans oublier ceux qui étaient hors sujet.

« Je suis rendu à 50 ans, je suis célibataire. Pas par choix. J’ai juste ça à dire. »

Heureusement.

Certains membres des minorités culturelles n’étaient pas en reste : « Je n’ai jamais lapidé ma femme », a précisé l’un d’eux.

Pourquoi ne pas les avoir interrompus ?

« Les commissaires voulaient que ce soit un grand exercice démocratique, une libération par la parole, a répondu Madeleine Poulin. C’était important qu’il n’y ait pas de contraintes. »

Les commissaires auraient-ils dû condamner les propos racistes ? J’ai posé la question à la chercheuse Solange Lefebvre.

Long silence au bout du fil, suivi d’un soupir. « C’est difficile. […] C’est pas pour rien qu’on a de la misère à décider du format de la commission actuelle sur le racisme. C’est la marmite identitaire, la marmite raciste, la marmite du ressentiment. »

Les médias ont souligné à grands traits les travers et les propos xénophobes, burlesques et racistes. Infoman en a même fait une anthologie.

Réduire la Commission à ces propos grotesques est injuste. Elle a permis au monde ordinaire d’exprimer son opinion, d’avouer ses peurs, de se défouler et d’apprendre ce qu’est un hijab et un niqab, préalable important pour avancer. Vider son sac pour mieux construire, une sorte de passage obligé.

Il ne faut pas oublier le contexte explosif. À l’époque, le Québec était survolté. Les cas d’accommodement raisonnable, souvent loufoques, faisaient les manchettes. C’était une course, chaque média cherchait le cas le plus croustillant pour faire sa une, allant des fenêtres givrées du YMCA à la cabane à sucre qui avait retiré le porc de son menu pour donner satisfaction aux musulmans, en passant par le code de vie d’Hérouxville qui précisait que les femmes ne pouvaient être ni lapidées ni brûlées vives.

Les accommodements étaient accordés à gogo, selon l’air du temps ou l’humeur des gestionnaires qui ne savaient plus à quel saint se vouer.

Alors oui, il s’en est dit des niaiseries à la commission Bouchard-Taylor, thérapie collective oblige.

Mais il n’y a pas eu que des niaiseries. Bien au contraire.

Les journalistes Valérie Dufour et Jeff Heinrich ont couvert toutes les séances de la Commission. Ils ont publié un livre peu de temps après, Circus quebecus.

« Des madames comme ma mère déposaient des mémoires à Sept-Îles, Québec, Saint-Jérôme, m’a expliqué Valérie Dufour. Elles disaient toutes la même affaire. Elles avaient peur que le port des signes religieux fasse régresser les droits des femmes. C’était très intéressant et pas si laid que ça. »

« Les mêmes thèmes revenaient souvent, a-t-elle ajouté : la peur des autres, la peur de perdre quelque chose, la peur de donner un privilège à quelqu’un. »

Le Québec avait besoin d’exorciser ses démons, nul doute là-dessus.

***

Où en sommes-nous, dix ans plus tard ? Avons-nous reculé ? Avancé ? Sommes-nous plus tolérants ? Faut-il lancer la pierre aux médias ? Ont-ils jeté de l’huile sur le feu ?

Il en sera question demain lors d’un colloque de l’Université de Montréal qui se penchera sur le Québec post-Commission.

À la fin des travaux, Charles Taylor avait dit : « On a beaucoup appris, mais on est encore plus confus qu’auparavant. »

Dix ans plus tard, a-t-il raison ?

Source: Exorciser ses démons | Michèle Ouimet | Michèle Ouimet

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Quebec law banning face coverings is neither neutral nor constitutional: Emmett Macfarlane

Good assessment by Macfarlane:

The Quebec National Assembly has passed Bill 62, legislation introduced by the Liberal government that bans public workers and anyone receiving public services from wearing the niqab or any other face covering.

Although it is described as imposing a duty of religious neutrality on public servants and people using government services, the new law is neither neutral nor constitutional. It is impossible to reconcile this law as anything other than the targeting of a minority group, a slightly narrower spin on the now perennial Quebec debate over the wearing of (non-Catholic) religious identifiers.

Much like past proposals by the former Parti Québécois government under Pauline Marois, the law here is defended on the grounds of Quebec secularism, but it is a perversion of secularism, which would normally see the state refuse to adopt or sanction particular religions over others. Instead, the version of secularism to which Quebec’s political class seems to adhere is simply anti-religion, and more specifically, religions not reflected by the giant cross hanging in the National Assembly.

Protections under the Charter

It is this systemically discriminatory aspect of the bill which will fail to meet constitutional muster under the Charter of Rights. For not only does the bill violate the freedom of religion guarantee, it undoubtedly violates the Charter’s equality rights protections as well. The ban takes effect immediately, but detailed guidelines for exemptions – specifically, religious accommodation – apparently will not materialize until next July. In the meantime, the government better hope no Muslim woman wearing a niqab is prevented from accessing government services, for the law is unlikely to survive a court challenge.

No doubt the government has attempted to shield the law from precisely this sort of legal challenge. The ban applies to all face coverings, not just religious ones. But rights are held by individuals, and where it may be constitutional to force someone to remove a winter scarf or a pair of sunglasses, governments must justify imposing limits on religious freedoms like wearing the niqab.

Niqab

You will not see the Supreme Court sailing into the text of the Bible or Qur’an to determine which religious practices are “legitimate” requirements and which are not. The test is whether a rights claimant has a sincere belief. (Luc Lavigne/Radio-Canada)

It is at this point that some readers might object: “the niqab is a cultural affectation, not a religious requirement!” But courts in Canada do not engage in theology when ascertaining whether someone’s religious freedom has been infringed. Religions are not monolithic, and adherents have a diversity of viewpoints on all sorts of religious rules and practices. You will not see the Supreme Court sailing into the text of the Bible or Qur’an to determine which religious practices are “legitimate” requirements and which are not. The test is whether a rights claimant has a sincere belief that their religion requires particular practices or traditions.

So what justification does the government have for this law? The justice minister has cited reasons of communication, security and identification. You will be forgiven for wondering if you missed the news about a rash of nefarious people riding public transit lately, for it is unclear what security-related issues are actually at stake. As for identifying people using public services, there haven’t been any issues when people legitimately do need to show their face, such as when obtaining driver’s licenses.

But let’s stipulate that courts will accept this rationale as a pressing and substantial purpose for limiting people’s rights (courts normally accept any reasonable-sounding government purpose). The crucial question will be whether the ban minimally impairs the rights in question, and the clear answer is no.

There is no reason, security or otherwise, that anyone needs to see anyone else’s face on the bus. Especially in Canada with its pesky winters. To meet the Charter’s requirements, the benefit of a law needs to outweigh the harms imposed, and here religious freedoms will be violated for entirely illusory benefits.

There is one other common objection to this analysis, and that relates directly to why the government might have a legitimate reason to ban niqabs specifically: that niqabs are themselves oppressive, as Muslim women may be forced to wear them by their husbands or fathers or even their broader communities.

Banning women from the bus

Proponents of this view like to present a niqab ban as the feminist policy. But it is telling that some people will argue they are defending women, while defending the state telling women what they can or cannot wear. It is also unfortunate for this particular brand of “feminist” that Canadian women who wear the niqab have explained their own reasons for choosing to wear it and most have denied they are being forced. It is at best patronizing, and at worst xenophobic, to pretend that all of these Muslim women in Canada are suffering from a lack of personal agency in this regard.

It is also worth noting that if any of these women are oppressed, subject to such misogynistic control by their husbands or fathers, the effect of the law will not be to free them from their shackles but instead will be to simply ban them from using the bus.

The state cannot impose freedom by restricting it.

Source: Quebec law banning face coverings is neither neutral nor constitutional – CBC News | Opinion

Square and Pinterest’s newly released employment data reveals a lack of diversity in top ranks – Recode

More tech industry numbers:

Square, a rising payments company, had only one person of color — an Asian man — in its 11-member executive ranks as of last year, according to newly available data.

Founded and run by Jack Dorsey, the company has a market value of $12.5 billion and had a total net revenue of $1.7 billion last year.

At another end of Silicon Valley, four of the eight executives at social media company Pinterest were people of color — two Asian males and a man and woman each of two or more races.

23andMe, a DNA testing company, was the only firm of approximately 20 top tech companies that have recently released such data that had an executive lineup near gender parity. Eight of its 17 top employees were women. Even so, only one of the 17 was a minority.

The lack of diversity among the upper ranks of these companies is consistent with other tech companies, and highlights the ongoing issue within Silicon Valley of bringing in leadership that isn’t white and male.

This new data comes from an ongoing project by the nonprofit Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. The project aims to create transparency about gender and race among Silicon Valley companies

The study shows for the first time the diversity stats for seven Bay Area tech companies: Square, Pinterest, 23andMe, Clover Health, MobileIron, Nvidia and View.

Using the data collected by Reveal, Recode looked at the top ranks of tech companies that have made their government diversity data public. We analyzed the racial and gender composition of executives or senior level managers, defined as people who “direct and formulate policies, set strategy and provide the overall direction,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Note: The Reveal data and analysis doesn’t include the Seattle-based Amazon, but we’ve added it in. We left out Clover Health from our analysis due to a possible mistake in their data.)

The data from these companies reflect the lack of racial and gender diversity elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

Twitter, for example, had no blacks or Latinos among its 47 executives. Of Amazon’s 105 executives in 2016, just one was Latino and none were black.

Facebook’s 496 executives were some of the most diverse, with 7 percent, or 35 people from underrepresented minorities, specifically executives who are not white or Asian.

Companies with more than 100 employees are required by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to fill out an annual survey that identifies the race and gender of their employees in 10 different employment categories, from laborers to chief executives.

Source: Square and Pinterest’s newly released employment data reveals a lack of diversity in top ranks – Recode

New Saudi body to discredit terrorist use of Islamic teachings – The National

While the centre may have some impact in terms of reducing the credibility of those who interpret Islamic teachings to justify violence and thus violent extremism, it will do nothing to minimize the negative impact of fundamentalist Salafism:

Islamic scholars have welcomed a Saudi royal decree to establish a religious centre that will monitor interpretations of Prophet Mohammed’s Hadiths to prevent extremists from using them to justify acts of terror and violence.

The Saudi ministry of information said the King Salman Complex for the Prophet’s Hadiths will become the leading authority on modern day use of the prophet’s teachings, which are used in Islam to govern all aspects of daily life.

Extremist groups have used interpretations to justify heinous acts and urge their followers to wage war in what is an often misinterpreted understanding of “jihad”.

The Saudi ministry of foreign affairs announced that the centre, which will be located in Madinah, will carry out further study the second authoritative source of Islamic teachings “to better understand the meanings of the Hadiths”.

The body, which was announced on Tuesday night, will look to “eliminate fake and extremist texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorist acts”.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s most senior Islamic authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al Sheikh, thanked the king for issuing a royal decree to establish the centre.

Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Nasser Al Khazeem, vice president of general affairs at the Holy Mosque in Makkah, meanwhile said the King Salman Complex for the Prophet’s Hadiths will aim to bring the true meaning of the Hadiths to light and curb extremists’ interpretation of them.

“To learn and understand the Hadiths. To liberate people from the darkness of thought, the extremism and misinterpretation of the book of God, and the teachings that have been passed down to us through the Prophet,” he said.

The chairman of the centre has been named as Sheikh Mohammed bin Hassan Al Sheikh, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, which serves as Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body.

Saudi Arabia has government centres for Islamic study which establish a universal method for teaching Islam both in the kingdom itself and abroad in Saudi Arabia’s many state-sponsored schools.

However, the study of the Hadiths, which number in the thousands and are equivocally interpreted, have often been less studied and been the source of debate since their origins more than 1,400 years ago.

The new centre will be overseen by a council of senior Islamic scholars from around the world, according to the decree, and will look to establish a more international interpretation of the teachings.

Saudi Arabian clerics, who have historically been dominated by Al Sheikh family, are the originators of the Wahhabi doctrine.

Wahhabism offers a stricter version of Islam that looks to the early days of Islam as the ideal by which to govern modern life and teaches the doctrine in its mosques, universities and schools abroad.

Source: New Saudi body to discredit terrorist use of Islamic teachings – The National

Some fears of Islam justified: Lawyer [David Matas]

Sun Media continues to cover the perspectives of those concerned without comparable coverage of those in support of M-103. Both perspectives need to be covered.

My (faint) hope is that the Canadian Heritage committee will come up with a consensus on a working definition, one that puts that particular canard behind us, and allows focus on the day-to-day practical issues:

A celebrated Canadian human rights lawyer urged MPs to be careful in their use of the term Islamophobia, saying “fear of some elements of Islam is mere prudence.”

David Matas, an Order of Canada recipient who began his career as a clerk for the Chief Justice of Canada in the 1960s, delivered testimony Wednesday before the M-103 committee hearings in his capacity as senior counsel to B’nai Brith Canada.

“Not every fear of Islam is Islamophobia,” Matas said to the House of Commons Heritage Committee, noting that anyone who is not afraid of the various radical Islamic terrorist outfits in the world is “foolhardy”.

“Islamophobia does not appear in a vacuum,” Matas told MPs. “It grows out of a fear of incitement and acts of hatred and terrorism coming from elements of the Islamic community.”

The Winnipeg-based lawyer, who ran for office years ago as a Liberal, recommended the committee take a “dual focus” approach on both those victimized by Islamophobia and those within the Islamic community inciting hatred and terrorism.

Following Matas’ testimony, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, urged the committee to aim towards a more precise definition of Islamophobia.

M-103 was nominally designed to denounce, and study, all forms of racism and discrimination, but has faced extensive controversy for singling out Islam.

Fogel pointed to a Toronto District School Board booklet’s definition of Islamophobia that included mere dislike of political Islam as worthy of censure.

“This incident exposes significant problems with relying on ad hoc, inadequate definitions of Islamophobia,” said Fogel.

On Monday, Muslim author and Sun columnist Farzana Hassan told the committee her concerns about how the term is used in other countries to suppress criticism from within the faith.

Source: Some fears of Islam justified: Lawyer | St. Thomas Times-Journal

Google, Facebook Helped Anti-Islam Group During 2016 Election

The flaws in their business models keep on becoming more apparent:

If you saw ads on your Facebook feed showing an alternate reality where France and Germany were governed by Sharia law ahead of the 2016 elections, you’re not alone.

Facebook (FB, +0.89%) and Google (GOOGL, +0.18%) helped advertising company Harris Media run the campaigns for their client, Secure America Now—a conservative, nonprofit advocacy group whose campaign “included a mix of anti-Hillary Clinton and anti-Islam messages,” notes Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg’s account, Facebook and Google directly collaborated on the campaign, helping “target the ads to more efficiently reach the audiences.” Not only did the two tech giants compete for “millions in ad dollars,” but they also “worked closely” with the group on their ads throughout the 2016 election.

Voters in swing states saw a range of ads, including the faux tourism video that depicted French students being trained to fight for the caliphate, and the Mona Lisa covered in a burqa. Another ad linked Nevada Democratic Senate nominee Catherine Cortez Masto to terrorism, calling on viewers to “stop support of terrorism. Vote against Catherine Cortez Mastro,” and asking them to “vote to protect Nevada.”

Ads were optimized to target specific groups of people that they felt “could be swayed by the anti-refugee message.” And Facebook reportedly used its collaboration with Secure America Now as an opportunity to test new technology as well. Internal reports acquired by Bloomberg show that the ads were viewed millions of times on Facebook and Google.

This case distinguishes itself from that of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election in that Google and Facebook directly assisted Secure America Now in its targeting of audiences. Of course, the two companies have worked with political groups on their advertising strategies in the past, but the extent and secretive nature of their assistance in this case is uncommon. And the content of the ads themselves reportedly left some Harris employees feeling “uneasy.”

Google and Facebook were not immediately available for comment.

Source: Google, Facebook Helped Anti-Islam Group During 2016 Election

Neutralité religieuse: les organismes devront composer avec une période de flottement, Bus driver enforcement questions

Will be interesting to watch as municipalities and other organizations struggle to implement the burqa/niqab ban:

Les municipalités, commissions scolaires et autres sociétés d’État qui seront soumises à la loi québécoise sur la neutralité religieuse devront gérer les demandes d’accommodements pour motifs religieux sans nouvelles balises pour une période qui pourrait durer neuf mois.

Dans l’espoir de fournir des « lignes directrices claires » à ceux qui devront appliquer la nouvelle loi, la ministre de la Justice Stéphanie Vallée a repoussé la date d’application de toutes les dispositions portant sur ces accommodements. Celles-ci entreront en vigueur « d’ici le 1er juillet », bien après la sanction officielle de la loi, explique-t-on à son cabinet.

Le projet de loi favorisant le respect de la neutralité religieuse de l’État et les demandes d’accommodements religieux doit être adopté ce mercredi à l’Assemblée nationale.

Dans l’intermède entre sa sanction et l’entrée en vigueur de ses dispositions sur les accommodements, les organismes qui y seront assujettis devront se rabattre sur l’article 10 de la Charte des droits et libertés — qui proscrit notamment la discrimination fondée sur la religion — quand ils feront face à des demandes d’accommodements.

« Des groupes de travail seront mis sur pied dans les municipalités, le milieu de l’éducation [et] les CPE pour s’assurer que l’on répond aux diverses questions qui seront soulevées », a assuré mardi la ministre Vallée.

« Je ne m’imagine pas non plus qu’après avoir adopté le projet de loi 62, tous les problèmes de la neutralité religieuse et des accommodements raisonnables [seront réglés] », a-t-elle aussi reconnu plus tard.

Le projet de loi sur la neutralité religieuse instaure la notion de réception et de prestation de services « à visage découvert ». Il s’applique surtout aux services publics, et il inclut la possibilité d’accommodements religieux si ces derniers respectent certains critères, comme le principe de l’égalité hommes-femmes. Il ne proscrit cependant pas le port de signes religieux chez les agents de coercition de l’État, comme l’avait recommandé la commission Bouchard-Taylor en 2008.

Pour la ministre Stéphanie Vallée, « le projet de loi [respecte] les droits garantis par nos chartes [et] représente donc le consensus défini entre les partis politiques ». « Nous vivons dorénavant dans la paix québécoise », estime-t-elle.

Source: Neutralité religieuse: les organismes devront composer avec une période de flottement | Le Devoir

Meanwhile, in English media, the bus driver enforcement question:

Montreal bus drivers are hoping for clarity — and bracing themselves for headaches — as Quebec moves to pass legislation that would require a Muslim woman who wears a niqab or burka to uncover her face to ride a city bus.

The Liberal government’s Bill 62 on religious neutrality would prohibit public workers, as well as those receiving a public service, from covering their face.

The law would apply to municipal services, including public transit. The guidelines for how those working in the public sector should carry out the law, however, may not be ready until next summer, after a round of consultations.

‘Are these niqabi ladies going to be wearing a tag in their neck saying they’re exempt [from] this law? How is it going to work?’– Shaheeh Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women

That leaves the union representing employees of Montreal’s transit corporation, the STM, worried that individual drivers will have to make a judgment call in the meantime.

“STM bus drivers don’t want that responsibility. When it comes to applying the law, they want clear directives from the STM,” union spokesperson Ronald Boisrond said in an interview.

In an emailed statement, the STM said it’s still evaluating how the law would be applied and “the instructions to employees that will result.”

“Our goal will be to prevent employees from interpreting the law in their own way,” said STM spokesperson Isabelle Tremblay.

Source: With Quebec’s face-covering ban poised to become law, bus drivers seek ‘clear directives’ – Montreal – CBC News

Opposition accuses Liberals of ‘paralysis’ in crackdown on crooked immigration consultants

Refreshing to see the opposition admitting that its previous approaches failed while pressing the government for action:

Opposition MPs are accusing the Liberal government of failing to protect immigrants from fraudsters and predators as it swings Canada’s door open to more newcomers.

In a formal response to a sweeping study by MPs on the immigration committee tabled four months ago, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government is “seized” with issues related to inadequate protection from unprofessional or unethical practitioners, and conceded a strong system of oversight is essential.

But he did not commit to any of the committee’s 21 recommendations, saying only that the government will carry out further study and expects to provide more information on a path forward next year.

“Given the complexity and inter-dependencies of the issues, the impact on public confidence, on clients and authorized immigration and citizenship consultants, the government will carefully consider the committee’s report and undertake a thorough analysis of key recommendations before determining how these issues could be addressed successfully,” his response reads.

A disappointed Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the response amounts to “typical inertia.”

“There are very substantive proposals on the table on how to manage this, and the government really just needs to make a decision and implement it,” she told CBC News. “The fact they’re not willing to do it suggests a sort of paralysis on their part, and that’s to the detriment of people who are being exploited.”

“We tried self-governance. Clearly, that’s failed,” she said. “I’m willing to say the approach we tried failed, twice, and it’s really now up to the Liberal government to do something, and the status quo is not going to cut it.”

In the spring, the Commons immigration committee carried out weeks of hearings on unregistered representatives often called “ghost” or “crooked” consultants, hearing heart-wrenching stories from clients who were ripped off for thousands of dollars, or brought to Canada with the promise of work only to be dumped at the side of the road or left in a warehouse.

Rempel said it is even more critical that the government crack down on predators in the context of its aggressive immigration strategy.

Source: Opposition accuses Liberals of ‘paralysis’ in crackdown on crooked immigration consultants – Politics – CBC News

Hate Crimes Soared in England and Wales After Brexit | Time.com

 Latest UK stats:

Hate crime offenses in England and Wales rose to the highest point yet recorded in the year leading up to March 2017, according to official figures released on Tuesday by the government.

There was a 29% spike in recorded hate crimes— which include any crime motivated by religion, race, sexuality, disability or transgender identity— in the 12 months before March 2017 (80,393 offenses) compared to the same period between 2015-16 (62,518 offenses)

The vote to leave the E.U. in 2016 and better recording methods attributed to the rise, the government said. “The increase over the last year is thought to reflect both a genuine rise in hate crime around the time of the E.U. referendum” Britain’s Home Office, or interior department, said in a statement.

Anecdotal accounts flooded social media of attacks on some European communities in the country following the vote to leave the E.U. in June, which Leave campaign critics attribute to a rise in xenophobic rhetoric during and after Brexit campaign.

Hate crimes are still under-reported especially when the crime is committed online, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for hate crime, said in a statement . ” I will be working alongside the Government to strengthen our nationally co-ordinated response to hate crime” he said.

The majority of offenses recorded during the period were motivated by race. The report notes that there was a spike in the number of racially or religiously aggravated offenses after the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in March, when a man killed 5 people after driving a car into pedestrians and stabbing a police officer.

Provisional figures provided by the police showed jihadist attacks over the summer led to a four-month sustained increase in hate crimes, starting with Westminster attack followed by the Manchester Arena bombing and London Bridge attack on June 3. The level of hate crime offences decreased in the following days and the pattern repeated itself after the Finsbury Park attack in June 19— when a van ploughed into worshippers near Finsbury Park mosque.

Disability and transgender hate crimes saw the largest increases 2016-17, with a 53% and 45% increase respectively compared to the year before, but the Home Office said these spikes were driven by improved identification and recording of offenses, as opposed to a dramatic increase in attacks.

Despite the rise in offenses, prosecutions for hate crimes actually declined in the year to 2016/2017, from 15,442 to 14,480 people. “The drop in referrals recorded last year has impacted on the number of completed prosecutions in 2016/17 and we are working with the police at a local and national level to understand the reasons for the overall fall in referrals in the past two years” Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said in a statement.

“Police have improved the reporting procedures across forces, but we can do better at securing convictions – we need anyone who has been a victim of hate crime to report the abuse and the abuser to police to make sure these offenders are brought to justice” Hamilton said in a statement.

Source: Hate Crimes Soared in England and Wales After Brexit | Time.com

John Ivison: Concerns raised as Liberals consider tougher French requirements for public servants

Good discussion by Ivison of some of the issues involved:

Canada is blessed with a bilingual public service – a bureaucracy mildewed with caution and capable of stifling innovation in both official languages.

We are, in fact, better at stopping things happening than anyone – Canada is number one in the International Civil Service Effectiveness Index.

Yet, nearly five decades after the passage of the Official Languages Act, the public service is not bilingual enough, it seems.

A new report by two senior bureaucrats, commissioned by the Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, has found many public servants working in bilingual regions do not feel comfortable using their language of choice at work.

The solution, according to Patrick Borbey, president of the Public Service Commission of Canada, and senior bureaucrat, Matthew Mendelsohn, is to raise the linguistic requirements for those in supervisory roles.

This sounds fair enough at first blush – people should be able to work in the language in which they can express themselves most easily. The complaint is that even when French is used, it is symbolic – typically introduced at the beginning or end of a discussion but not sustained.

However, the backdrop to this is a public service that is already over-represented in executive positions by French speakers. Twenty three per cent of Canadians identify French as their first language but 26 per cent of Canada’s 250,000 federal public servants are French speakers and fully 31 per cent of those in executive positions primarily speak French.

Raising the linguistic bar is likely to exacerbate the dominance of French speakers in the upper echelons of the public service – sparking more resentment inside the bureaucracy, where many view the existing requirements as an insurmountable hurdle to promotion.

The proposal is to raise the requirement for French oral expression and comprehension from level B to level C – a test which only 35-45 per cent of employees currently pass.

The Liberals point out that the move toward superior proficiency levels is just one of 14 recommendations made by Borbey and Mendelsohn – and none are likely to be adopted in isolation.

The hope is that by increasing training levels across the public service, proficiency would improve at all levels.

“We’re committed to ensuring English and French speaking Canadians have equal opportunities of employment and advancement in federal institutions, including through better and more accessible language training necessary to achieve higher language standards,” said Jean-Luc Ferland, press secretary to Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board.

He blamed the Conservative government for cutting training budgets and said any proposed changes would be made in consultation with public sector unions.

That goes without saying since the report recommends the government fund increased training by “re-purposing” the $800 bilingualism bonus paid to public servants who meet the language requirements for their position. That goes without saying since the report recommends the government fund increased training by “re-purposing” the $800 bilingualism bonus paid to public servants who meet the language requirements for their position. (Full disclosure: my spouse qualifies for the bonus.)

Killing the bonus could prove counter-productive – many bureaucrats maintain their skills with the express purpose of passing their five-yearly language test and qualifying for the $800 bonus.

One wonders if Justin Trudeau would be mobbed by joyful civil servants in the future, as he was at the Global Affairs building two years ago, if he claws back the bilingualism bonus?

André Picotte, acting president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, said his union has not been consulted on what would constitute a hefty pay-cut for his members.

“There are several ways we can foster bilingualism in the work place. But not by axing benefits in place since the 1970s,” he said.

He called on the government to increase the training budget so that it is accessible to junior bureaucrats, who find it difficult to cultivate the language skills necessary for jobs requiring bilingualism.

It’s a long-standing criticism that language training is offered too late in the career of public servants, and is often allocated through performance management processes, with the result some staff never have access to in-person language training.

The report’s recommendations may mitigate some of those shortcomings – for example, the requirement for each institution or department to create a “personal language training account” to enable all employees to receive a certain number of hours of language training.

But outside of Quebec and New Brunswick, just eight per cent of Canadians are bilingual – for the vast majority, ordering quiche lorraine taxes their linguistic ability.

If the Liberals adopt a policy that makes the federal public service even less representative of the Canadian public than it is already, they will stoke the impression that the West, in particular, is being frozen out.

Source: National Post