Jagmeet Singh’s challenge: substance over style: Kurl

Shachi Kurl asks the question: are Canadians ready for a Sikh Canadian political party leader given overall discomfort with religious headgear and related symbols?

My sense is that discomfort will affect some potential voters but agree with her assessment that his performance will be more significant with most:

Canadians are by now used to seeing turbaned Sikhs on every party’s bench. Lost to the annals of history is the fact that Gurbax Malhi’s election as the Liberal MP for Brampton-Gore-Malton nearly 25 years ago prompted a rule change on Parliament Hill. Prior to that, it was forbidden to wear “headgear” in the House of Commons.

Nor did Canadians bat an eye when Harjit Sajjan, also an orthodox Sikh, was named Defence Minister, in part because there was more to his story. He had been a soldier and a police officer, so he brought (notwithstanding the Operation Medusa mess) a credibility to the job.

In the same way, some of Jagmeet Singh’s political advantages and liabilities will be equally banal. On the plus side, he’s a bike enthusiast and a human-rights activist, which will stand him in good stead with urban New Democrats. In the minus column, he isn’t well known outside his home province, a problem shared with the rest of the pack.

But let’s not forget for a moment how judgy Canadians can be when it comes to politicians’ appearances. Stephen Harper was fat-shamed over his fondness for root beer. Chrystia Freeland takes heat for often wearing the same dress. And if Tom Mulcair’s beard was a topic for the last federal campaign, it’s certain Mr. Singh’s beard, turban, and kirpan – all tenets of his faith – will be the subject of discussion at the coffee shop, the ice rink, and on talk radio.

He will have to overcome Canadian discomfort with some of that religious symbolism. Angus Reid Institute polling on the subject from April (totally independent of Mr. Singh’s entrance into the race) shows that, while the vast majority have no issue with the wearing of turbans, they object to the display and wearing of the kirpan. Indeed, two-thirds of those polled oppose it, rising to more than three-quarters in Quebec, where the issue wound its way into the courts in a divisive, high-profile case. One can only imagine what Quebeckers, who once returned a large mandate for “le bon Jack” Layton, would make of Mr. Singh. Would they be prepared to embrace “le bon Jagmeet?”

He’s given interviews saying he doesn’t mind Canadians talking about his looks. Well that’s good, because it will be talked of, a lot. The key to overcoming barriers and discomfort will be education, familiarity, and Mr. Singh ensuring his narrative is about more than religion. By education, he will need to tell and tell and tell again why he choses to wear the kirpan and why it’s important to him. Familiarity is just that, getting voters used to him and the way he looks, a task made easier by fashion spreads and appearances on national comedy shows.

I firmly believe Mr. Singh the politician is more than the sum of his religion and appearance. However, his ability to convince Canadians coast to coast to look past the visible symbols of his faith and assess him as a potential prime minister is yet undetermined. Urban, younger voters will be more receptive than older, rural ones. But no demographic is a monolith, and much will depend on Mr. Singh’s own performance as a credible alternative to his federal Liberal counterpart, all while putting the capital “V” in visible minority.

Source: Jagmeet Singh’s challenge: substance over style – The Globe and Mail

Douglas Todd: New approaches to the ‘astronaut’ phenomenon | Vancouver Sun

Todd covers the views of David Lesperance, a tax and immigration lawyer, on how best to ensure that ‘astronauts’ contribute their fair share in income taxes (they pay property tax and GST).

Although I agree on the need for measures to curb the abuse and “free-loading”, his ideas do not strike me as particularly realistic in terms of implementation if they are not resident in Canada:

It’s clear astronaut families have brought cultural diversity, international connections and foreign currency to Canada: They’ve fuelled not only real estate development, but also automobile sales and private schools.

While many astronaut families exhibit as much integrity as others, some taxation and immigration specialists believe Canada needs new ways to counter the downsides of circular migrants — particularly unaffordable housing and uncollected taxes.

An anti-corruption agency, Transparency International, recently released a report calling Metro Vancouver one of the hot spots for a globalized “corrupt elite” intent on making their dirty wealth look clean by laundering it through real estate; exploiting gaping tax loopholes.

What can be done? The short answer is better taxation and immigration policy — and rigorous enforcement.

David Lesperance, a tax and immigration lawyer with offices in Toronto and Europe, has striking ideas for reform.

They would bring fewer “ghost immigrants” to Canada, he said, and more of what he calls “Golden Geese,” well-off migrants who intend to pay their fair share of taxes.

“The problem is there is large-scale immigration of relatively wealthy people to Canada who are not contributing significantly, if at all, to the Canadian tax base,” says Lesperance.

“They have bid up the local housing market in Vancouver and Toronto. In addition, they are receiving the benefits of Canadian permanent residence, such as cheap and excellent schooling, free medical care and security.”

Unfortunately, Lesperance says, Canada is not obtaining its full measure of property or income taxes from these newcomers. There is both a real and perceived lack of enforcement of Canada’s tax laws.

“Theoretically, each of these wealthy immigrants should be paying Canadian tax on their worldwide income and capital gains. But the reality is the Canada Revenue Agency has not been enforcing this regime and this news has spread through the immigrant community,” Lesperance says.

“Astronaut families are those who were granted permanent residence status for their families and, after buying homes and installing children in schools, the principal breadwinner then tries to claim no Canadian tax liability — often by relinquishing their immigration status (or by) claiming they’re non-residents of Canada for tax purposes.”

To change the global perception that it’s easy to get away with not paying taxes in Canada, Lesperance says there is a need for well-publicized tax audits of such “ghost” immigrants.

It wouldn’t be hard to catch cheaters, said Lesperance.

The first group to audit, Lesperance said, is the 40,000 would-be immigrants who have, in the past two years, renounced their permanent residence status in Canada, often to avoid taxes.

Renouncers and others should be subjected to “lifestyle audits,” Lesperance said. Tax auditors should dig into whether astronaut fathers, but also their spouses and children, continue to own Canadian properties and spend lavishly on cars and private schools.

Those who are caught evading taxes should be publicly exposed, he said.

“The impact of news of such an effort will resonate like a thunderbolt within the immigrant communities. The fallout will be that each family will have to determine whether (staying in Canada) is valuable enough for them to pay the proper (taxes).”

Lesperance offers another idea, which is more unorthodox.

There is nothing wrong with creative rich people travelling the world to work, invest and run businesses, argues Lesperance. Many are his clients, whom he calls the “Golden Geese.”

They would be satisfied, he says, holding two passports while still paying their share of income taxes to Canada, in return for “a stable and safe place for their global operations.”

Canada is losing out on these entrepreneurial newcomers, he says, because its “antiquated” immigration policy focuses on migrants proving a sustained “physical presence” in the country.

Lesperance turns things around by suggesting we not worry so much about whether such wealthy would-be immigrants are physically present in Canada.

Instead, Lesperance recommends rating them on whether they pay significant income taxes in Canada — regardless of which country they spend most of their time in.

It’s a counter-intuitive way to think about immigration policy, which has traditionally expected newcomers to show a physical loyalty to their new land. I’m not saying I necessarily endorse it. There are other ways to tax the properties of astronaut families.

But at least a new “tax-residence” approach to business immigrants would help Canada become less of a haven for those circular migrants who are determined to avoid or evade taxes the rest of us are expected to pay.

Source: Douglas Todd: New approaches to the ‘astronaut’ phenomenon | Vancouver Sun

Steep Rise In Interracial Marriages Among Newlyweds 50 Years After They Became Legal : NPR

Integration:

Close to 50 years after interracial marriages became legal across the U.S., the share of newlyweds married to a spouse of a different race or ethnicity has increased more than five times — from 3 percent in 1967, to 17 percent in 2015, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Chart: Intermarriage among newlyweds has risen from 3% to 17% since 1967

The Pew report comes about a month before the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia. Mildred Loving, a part-Native American, part-black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, landed in a Virginia county jail for getting married. Today, one in six newlyweds marry someone outside their race, which appears to allude to a more accepting society.

Among adults who are not black, there’s a shrinking share of those who say they would be opposed to having a close relative marrying someone who is black — from 63 percent in 1990, to 14 percent in 2016. The share of people who oppose marriages with Asian or Hispanic people has also dropped from about one in five to around one in ten adults not in those groups. Among those who are not white, the share opposed to a relative marrying a white person has dropped from 7 percent to 4 percent.

Here are some of the other interesting findings from Pew about interracial and interethnic marriages:

Asian and Latino newlyweds are more likely to marry outside of their race or ethnicity than black and white newlyweds

More than a quarter of Asian newlyweds (29 percent) and Latino newlyweds (27 percent) are married to a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. Those rates go up even higher for those born in the U.S. — to 46 percent for Asian newlyweds and 39 percent for Hispanic newlyweds.

Interracial and interethnic marriages are more common among college-educated black and Latino newlyweds, but not among white or Asian newlyweds

While educational level is not a major factor for white newlyweds, black and Latino newlyweds with at least a bachelor’s degree are more likely to have a spouse of a different race or ethnicity than those with some college experience or less education. That educational gap is starkest among Latino newlyweds. As the authors of the Pew report, Gretchen Livingston and Anna Brown, write: “While almost half (46 percent) of Hispanic newlyweds with a bachelor’s degree were intermarried in 2015, this share drops to (16 percent) for those with a high school diploma or less – a pattern driven partially, but not entirely, by the higher share of immigrants among the less educated.”

But among Asian newlyweds, those with some college experience (39 percent) are more likely to marry someone of a different race or ethnicity than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher (29 percent) or with a high school diploma or less (26 percent). “Asian newlyweds with some college are somewhat less likely to be immigrants, and this may contribute to the higher rates of intermarriage for this group,” the Pew report suggests. But it also notes that this trend also holds true for Asian newlyweds who were not born in the U.S.

Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say that the increase of interracial marriages is good for society

There is a stark political split in how people feel about interracial marriage. About half (49 percent) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say that growing numbers of people marrying others of different races is good for society, compared to more than a quarter (28 percent) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Most Republicans (60 percent) say the rise of interracial marriages doesn’t make much of a difference.

Reyhana Patel: Don’t believe the smears. Here’s what Islamic Relief Canada is really all about

Patel on the work her organization does and the Middle East Forum attacks (see Sam Westrop : A call for Trevor Noah to support tolerance and withdraw from Toronto event):

We’ve done some incredible work in the last ten years helping millions of individuals around the world — including in Canada — regardless of their religion, race, gender or sexuality. We’ve been amazed at the generosity of Canadians — those who are Muslim and those of different faith backgrounds who support our work and are strong advocates for the efforts we undertake. For instance, we raised over $100,000 for the victims of the Fort McMurray wildfire, supported Syrian refugee resettlement programs, worked at empowering disadvantaged youth in the Greater Toronto Area, and launched an appeal for the Quebec mosque attack victims that raised thousands of dollars for the families left without their fathers.

This track record stands in stark contrast to the false image painted of Islamic Relief Canada in a one-sided and unsubstantiated article that was published recently in the National Post.

Sam Westrop, writing on behalf of the Middle East Forum (MEF), labelled Islamic Relief Canada a “terrorist organization which regularly gives platforms to preachers who incite hatred against women, Jews, homosexuals and Muslim minorities.” This defamatory statement was removed after our organization contacted the newspaper, along with community members who were justifiably angered by this casual smear of a reputable and valuable charity. The revised article is now online, but for me, it still represents the dictionary definition of fake news: “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.”

In my view, Westrop’s article represents the dictionary definition of fake news: ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.’

Let’s step back for a moment to understand where this is all coming from. The MEF has been named in a well-researched report called Fear Inc. as one of America’s most notorious anti-Muslim think tanks. This is an organization with US$4.6 million in annual revenue that uses some of its resources to paint a negative picture of Islam and Muslims.

The MEF’s piece further reflects the National Post’s unfortunate pattern of allowing Canadian Muslims and their institutions to be unfairly represented as threats to society, rather than highlighting what the vast majority of them truly are: a credit to the community and a positive force for good, working tirelessly to provide a good life not only for their families, but also for many others.

Mr. Westrop is known for inciting fear by using false information. In 2017, he was ordered to pay more than $174,000 in damages to Mohamed Ali Harrath, the CEO of a British Muslim TV Channel, after Westrop wrongfully labelled Harrath a “convicted terrorist.” Westrop also has connections to senior people in the right-wing UK Independence Party. UKIP’s political opponents have condemned some of the party’s policies as “full-throttled Islamophobia.”

The MEF’s president, Daniel Pipes, has publicly supported the internment of the Japanese-American community during the Second World War, an abhorrent act for which the U.S. government under President Ronald Reagan apologized.

It has become the norm for anti-Muslim groups to find any excuse possible to target Muslim institutions.

It is ironic that those who falsely claim that Muslims are all about shutting down freedom of expression do not recognize their hypocrisy of trying to suppress the voices of those who wish to freely discuss religious dogmas. One of the many reasons I love this country is that, at its best, it is a beacon of free speech and diversity, whose people will not tolerate oppression of minorities or attempts to demonize others. Our core common values are of tolerance and inclusion — as long as violence is rejected unequivocally and no one is advocating harm against anyone else.

It has become the norm for anti-Muslim groups to find any excuse possible to target Muslim institutions. Not only do these tactics lead to distrust and alienation but they also undermine valuable work for the most vulnerable communities of this world. Sadly, the National Post still gives the fear-mongers a platform.

Our organization is focused on bringing communities and faith groups together to encourage generous support for the poor and disadvantaged and to promote a message of acceptance and diversity. The publication of harmful innuendo that seeks to undermine this work only proves why events like the one we’re holding with Trevor Noah are so necessary.

Source: Reyhana Patel: Don’t believe the smears. Here’s what Islamic Relief Canada is really all about | National Post

Too white, too old, too late? Quebec’s immigration problem

Martin Patriquin on Quebec’s challenges.

However weird logic in citing a Quebec city example and stating the difficulties in getting drivers licences as a major factor, given that theys are administered by the province (the overall rates cited, and differences between francophone and allophone pass rates, are province-wide):

Attracting immigrants to Canada is, above all, a show of demographic pragmatism. The math is simple:

Those of us who have been here longer tend to have fewer babies. Without immigration, the vaunted social safety net designed by young boomers becomes untenable as those very boomers get old and begin to shuffle off to the great Margaritaville in the sky.

Of course, divorcing this simple equation from the stinking politics surrounding it is a nearly impossible task. Visible and linguistic minorities make for fantastic scapegoats for many seeking office, if only because a scared voter is a motivated voter. Tell him that his country is slipping away into a darkening slurry of veiled faces and foreign tongues and he will run, not walk, to the ballot box.

Fortunately, Canadian cities have been relatively successful in attracting immigrants. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver all do it with gusto and relative success. Seventy per cent of immigrants who have come to Canada have settled within the boundaries of these three cities, according to Statistics Canada. Again, the math is simple: Those immigrants who settle here create a precedent for others to come.

Then there are places like Quebec City. Located just 260 kilometres to the east of Montreal, Quebec City is about as far from Montreal’s feel-good multiculturalist Babel as it possibly can be.

Quebec City has five universities, a clutch of head offices, proximity to the U.S. border and an international cachet due largely to its tourism industry. Despite all of this, the city of about 530,000 is almost entirely white and — like much of Quebec beyond Montreal’s shores — is rapidly falling behind the demographic curve as a result.

The Chhetri family is a perfect example of why Quebec City — along with Quebec in general — has difficultly attracting and retaining immigrants. As reported by the CBC,this Nepalese family of three arrived in Quebec City eight years ago, joining those 19,000 people living in the city whose mother tongue isn’t English or French. And soon they will move to Ontario, following in the footsteps of an estimated 150 Nepalese families from the city who already have left.

The reason? They can’t get driver’s licenses.

open quote 761b1bDiversity begets diversity, and there simply isn’t much of it in Quebec City. In fact, the city is more culturally and ethnically homogenous now than it was 100 years ago.

According to numbers from the province’s public auto insurance bureau, somewhere between 70 to 80 per cent of francophones passed the ministry’s written driving test between January 2015 to September 2016. Just under 50 per cent of Spanish speakers passed. Arabic speakers had a 38 per cent pass rate. The Chhetri family runs a store that specializes in Nepalese and Asian foods. They believe potential customers don’t shop at their store because they can’t physically get to it — or anywhere else, for that matter.

This cockup is probably bureaucratic, not political; many immigrants say the written exam — available in French, English, Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin — is confusing. Family patriarch Saroj Chhetri, who himself passed the test, told the CBC that the translation was dodgy. (The Quebec government is reviewing the test.)

But the end result is the same: Out of frustration or something else, immigrants leave. The province has had a net outmigration of its population to other provinces since at least 1986, according to a Statistiques Québec report published last year. Quebec saw a net outmigration of nearly 15,000 in 2016, the highest in two decades.

The reason why immigrants tend to come to Montreal is a largely one of economic imperative. So why don’t more of them go to Quebec City? The provincial capital is stuck in the Catch-22 faced by many much smaller towns: Diversity begets diversity, and there simply isn’t much of it in Quebec City.

In fact, the city is more culturally and ethnically homogenous now than it was 100 years ago, when it had vibrant Irish and Chinese communities alongside a hearty pack of Scots. Jews were tolerated almost as much as they were in Montreal — which is to say they had a fighting chance to thrive. A century later, almost all have voted with their feet.

There is a predictable end result to all of this. At 43.5, Quebec City has the oldest average age of any city in the country — older than St. John’s, older than Charlottetown — older even than Victoria, that charming retirement community on the country’s left coast.

It’s tempting to blame all of this on the province’s nationalist movement, which has become demonstrably more ethnic in nature over the last two decades. Certainly, that hasn’t helped. But it’s governments that set policy, not opposition parties — and the Liberal party has governed Quebec for all but 18 months of the last 14 years. The Parti Québécois only sees cultural communities as lost causes. For the Liberals, it’s far more insidious: to them, immigrants are guaranteed votes.

Earlier this year, Quebec’s Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil gave a speech at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. It was a 30-minute tribute to the Trudeaupian wet dream of diversity and inclusion, and it would have been fine stump speech had she not been part of a government that has systematically ignored the plight of immigrants within its borders for years.

The Liberals took power in 2003. Since then, the province has seen a net outmigration of over 110,000 people to other provinces. In 2016, Quebec had far and away the highest rate of unemployment among very recent immigrants — at 15 per cent — and tied oil-sick Alberta for highest overall immigrant unemployment rate.

Let’s be clear. Immigration is a lovely show of tolerance and inclusion and diversity and all that. But there is an economic bottom line underlying it. We need immigrants to make babies and generate tax dollars to support and fund this very dream.

It is sad Saroj Chhetri will no longer sell Nepalese goods in Quebec City’s lily-white sea. It’s also sad that Quebec will lose the tax dollars he generates, which are now decamping to Kitchener, Ontario.

Source: Too white, too old, too late? Quebec’s immigration problem

Recruit, Attract, Grow: Canadians Want A Plan | Abacus Data

Another interesting poll, showing that Canadians largely support an open economy and immigration for talented workers/high skilled workers (which closely mirror overall attitudes towards immigration):

To underscore the fact that Canadians do not believe Canada should take a passive approach in the face of trade threats from the White House, we asked whether Canada should look for opportunities where US policies might create disruption and potential interest in Canada.

• 89% say Canada should make a special effort to draw more international businesses to locate in Canada rather than the US.

• 73% say Canada should work to attract a lot of tourists who don’t know if they are welcome in America right now.

• Two-thirds (65%) say Canada should work to attract a lot of talented workers who don’t know if they are welcome in America right now.

While many economic policy choices can reveal deep partisan or regional cleavages, for the most part, these ideas don’t.  The large majority of people in all regions and across the three major parties like the idea of working to attract researchers and investment, and endorse the idea of making a special effort to reach those who may feel unwelcome in the US today.

 

UPSHOT

According to Bruce Anderson: “Many Canadians think there is a moment of opportunity for Canada, not only a substantial risk of US trade and tax measures that could unsettle conditions in Canada.  People see this country as having lots to offer talent and investment capital from around the world, and believe we should make strenuous, special efforts to reach out an attract it, especially since some may feel less certain of the welcome they would receive in the US.

For governments, this is a clear signal that people want our best defense on trade issues, but don’t want Canada to only play defense – in fact the large majority see this as a moment of ambition, and are anxious that our political leadership seize the moment caused by political uncertainty in other parts of the world, to extol Canada’s advantages.” 

Source: Recruit, Attract, Grow: Canadians Want A Plan | Abacus Data

Altruism vs. self-fulfillment: Faithful in Canada are more caring, but compassion has its limits, poll finds | Angus Reid / Cardus poll

Interesting survey in the secondary questions on attitudes and beliefs:

The larger the role faith plays in the lives of Canadians, the more likely they are to say they value altruism over self-fulfillment, a new poll has found.

Religion and politics, it is often said, don’t mix. Just because it’s said doesn’t mean it’s true — and in Canada, it’s not true.

Freshly released poll numbers collected by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) and Faith in Canada 150, in collaboration with think tank Cardus, suggest faith and religious belief do indeed play a hefty role in our views on politics and the world.

The survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, is part of a year-long project gauging Canadians’ beliefs and religious practices. It grouped respondents into four categories ranging from non-believers to religiously committed who attend places of worship regularly.

“Caring for others versus personal fulfillment, those are two very different value constructs,” Angus Reid, the institute’s founder and chairman, said in an interview. “And the relationship between them and religiosity is really significant.”

Asked to choose between two approaches as “the best way to live life,” 53 per cent of respondents picked “achieving our own dreams and happiness” over “being concerned about helping others.”

But when the results were broken down along the spectrum of religiosity, 67 per cent of the religiously committed favoured helping others. For non-believers, 65 per cent chose the pursuit of happiness.

 

The question revealed significant differences across Canadian regions. Quebec had the highest proportion of respondents across the country opting for self-fulfillment, at 65 per cent. Alberta was second at 54 per cent and British Columbia next at 53 per cent. In all other parts of the country, a majority of respondents picked helping others, with Saskatchewan the most altruistic at 59 per cent.

“What this survey proves is that having a faith, being part of a faith community, seems to propel people in the direction of developing higher levels of compassion or caring,” Reid said.

 

But that compassion has its limits. The 2,006 Canadian adults surveyed were asked a series of moral questions. The responses showed that the two groups on the religious end of the spectrum – the religiously committed and privately faithful – were together the most likely to say:

  • Canada should accept fewer immigrants and refugees;
  • They would be uncomfortable if a child planned to marry someone from a different cultural or religious background;
  • There should not be greater social acceptance of people who are LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer);
  • Preserving life is more important than people’s freedom to choose on issues like abortion and doctor-assisted death.

In another question, the poll asked which statement corresponded most closely to respondents’ personal views:

  • People are fundamentally sinners and in need of salvation; or
  • People are essentially good and sin has been invented to control people.

Two-thirds of those polled sided with the essential goodness of people. But among the religiously committed – who made up about one-fifth of the survey group – 73 per cent said people are fundamentally sinners.

 

Another set of questions sought to gauge positions on moral relativism – whether the concept of right and wrong is absolute or can change depending on the situation. A large majority, 68 per cent, said what is right or wrong “depends on the circumstances.” But nearly the same proportion, 66 per cent, rejected the notion that “answers to moral questions will be different for different cultures.” At 74 per cent, the religiously committed were the most likely to say universal rights and wrongs apply to the whole human race.

Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of Christian think tank Cardus, welcomed the poll’s finding that a majority of Canadians say their faith is important to their personal identity (54 per cent) and their day-to-day lives (55 per cent.)

 

“On the one hand, in contrast to the prevalent public narrative that religion is private and it doesn’t matter, it’s quite clear that for the vast majority of Canadians, it does.  Over half say, ‘Religion is actually shaping my identity and my decisions,’ ” Pennings said.

“On the other hand, that engagement is a relatively thin engagement.”

Source: Altruism vs. self-fulfillment: Faithful in Canada are more caring, but compassion has its limits, poll finds | National Post

Vigilante ‘Justice’ Targets Europe’s Migrants

More disturbing news from Europe:

Bürgerwehr has become a dirty and irritating word to the German authorities, especially since the New Year’s sex assaults in Cologne last year prompted a rash of vigilantism.

“It is not for Bürgerwehren or self-appointed hobby sheriffs to play at being the police,” Minister of Justice Heiko Maas warned last year, pointedly calling out those who were clicking “attend,” or otherwise loudly making plans to start patrolling neighborhoods at night, apparently on a mission to “bring back order” to inner cities.

Most of those announcements ended up being a lot of talk with little action. Still, gang violence in its most basic form seems to have taken on new inspiration: Last fall, a gang of four beat a 41-year-old acquaintance to death in front of a disco in provincial Waldbröl after getting drunk one night and going into town with baseball bats and some sort of vague plan to “hunt refugees.” Asked to explain the motive in court, one of the accused claimed that he was taking revenge for a girl who had been harassed.

In the United States, they used to call this lynching, with the reasons given often very much the same. And Germany isn’t the only European country that’s had trouble with self-appointed “hobby sheriffs” inventing themselves as “migrant hunters.” Finland has the anti-immigrant street patrol group Soldiers of Odin. And along the southern Bulgarian land border to Turkey there have been numerous incidents of vigilante groups detaining migrants, beating and humiliating them—and sometimes making a show of it in the process.

This year, prosecutors tried and failed to charge 31-year-old Peter Nizamov for “arresting“ three Afghan migrants, in the sense that he and his gang (they call themselves “Civil Squads for the Protection of Women and Faith”) cornered the three travelers, proceeded to rob them and beat them, then tied them up and shouted at them, in broken English, to go back to Turkey.

The state attorney should have had an easy time getting a six-year prison sentence for Nizamov. There was no question about the facts. He had posted a video of the event on Facebook, probably anticipating that it would be a great hit with his followers. And it was. Indeed, the flurry of “likes” was predictable—Bulgaria is mainly a transit country for refugees heading to Northern Europe, and the government itself has taken a harsh line on immigration, using the kind of rhetoric usually reserved for far-right fringe parties.

Then, in March this year, the court decided to acquit Nizamov. The police, who likely expected he would just brag the way he did when he gave an interview to national broadcaster bTV while under house arrest and confess to the charges, had done a sloppy job in gathering evidence: They hardly even bothered (and failed) to find the three Afghans to come to court and testify. And the TV confession was not replicated in court.

Source: Vigilante ‘Justice’ Targets Europe’s Migrants

Former Tory government’s refugee reforms get failing grade

Good evidence-based analysis but would have been helpful to have the pre-changes data as well:

Five years after Ottawa rolled out controversial reforms to build a “faster and fairer” asylum system, also meant to boot out failed refugees quickly, the verdict is in.

Despite the highly-touted changes made by the former Conservative government in 2012, the revamped refugee system has failed to hear claims within tight statutory processing timelines or get rid of the backlog, reports a new study released by the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies.

“The aim of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act was to make the system faster, fairer and more cost effective,” said Ryerson University criminology professor Idil Atak, who co-wrote the review with colleague Graham Hudson at Ryerson and University of Ottawa professor Delphine Nakache.

“But the new system is not faster. It is not fairer. It is not more cost-effective.”

To restore the asylum system’s “integrity,” then Immigration Minister Jason Kenney introduced substantive changes to the process, including truncated timelines in asylum claims’ processing. Those who claim asylum at a port of entry are given 15 days, not the 28 days that applied prior to that, to submit the form setting out the basis of their claim.

For most claimants, refugee hearings are supposed to be held no later than 60 days after the claim is referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board, while those from the government-designated list of “safe” countries will be heard as quickly as within 30 days.

The government did respond to advocates’ demands by establishing a tribunal to hear appeals by applicants whose claims have been rejected.

However, it also introduced a one-year bar to prevent failed refugees from having a pre-removal risk assessment or applying permanent residence under humanitarian considerations to delay deportation.

The researchers examined the system’s performance against its policy goals. They did this based on government data from the refugee board, immigration department, border service officials and the RCMP, and on 47 interviews with officials from those agencies and others.

Despite the drop in the volume of asylum claims by half over the course of one year, from 20,427 in 2012 to 10,322 in 2013, only 55 per cent of the safe-country claims met the 30-day target, compared to seven out of 10 claims from non-safe countries.

According to the refugee board, 30 per cent of asylum hearings had to be rescheduled in 2015, mostly due to lack of time. One-third of the appeals at the refugee appeals tribunal also failed to deliver a decision within the 90-day limit; on average, appeals cases were finalized 44 days beyond the target.

“The administration’s priority was to schedule the initial (refugee) hearings for new asylum applications,” said the 50-page study. “As a result, secondary intake of claims, i.e. claims returned by the appeals tribunal or Federal court, remained unresolved for a period of time.”

There were more than 5,000 so-called “legacy cases,” which were filed before the new system came into effect in 2012, that were languishing in the system as of 2016, said Atak, adding that the refugee backlog has already reached the number that applied before the 2012 reform.

With a spike in the number of irregular land-border crossings via the United States, Canada this year has already received a total of 12,040 claims up to the end of April.

If the trend continues, it could reach 36,000 cases in 2017.

Refugee advocates have called on the government to do away with the two-tier system based on where claimants come from and the unrealistic timelines for hearings and appeals.

Mario Dion, the refugee board chair, has called on the Liberal government both for more resources and to ease the restrictive process.

The Tories established the one-year bar to pre-removal risk assessments and humanitarian consideration for failed refugees because of the target to kick them out of Canada within one year.

However, the study found only one-third of failed claimants were removed from Canada within 12 months due to many obstacles.

These include lack of co-operation by the home country, inability to locate the individuals and the person’s fitness to travel.

The reforms did not come cheap, said the study; the Tory government allocated a total of $324 million on implementation over five years.

The removal costs almost doubled to $43 million after the reforms, while the number of people deported from Canada dropped from 13,869 in 2012 to 7,852 in 2014, according to the latest data available to the researchers.

Source: Former Tory government’s refugee reforms get failing grade | Toronto Star

Trump’s speech on Islam is rife with pitfalls. Experts say there’s little upside to it. – The Washington Post

Fasten one’s seatbelts (again):

CNN reports that top White House adviser Stephen Miller is drafting the speech on Islam that President Trump is slated to deliver in Saudi Arabia later this week. As you may recall, Miller was also at the center of crafting and defending the administration’s controversial immigration ban, which has been blocked by the courts because it unconstitutionally bars people from entering the country based on their religion.

Miller’s role perfectly captures the problem with this speech: Trump and his top advisers captivated his base by engaging in the worst Islamophobic rhetoric, perpetuating slurs about Muslims in the United States and around the world. But if Trump uses this speech to make amends for his past statements, he’ll alienate the very base of supporters who were the targets of this anti-Muslim strategy.

The administration is suggesting that he will, in fact, try to make such amends. National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who is also helping to write the speech, told reporters that it will be “an inspiring but direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world.” McMaster further promised that the speech will “unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization” and “demonstrate America’s commitment to our Muslim partners.”

But experts I spoke with today warned that this speech is so fraught with pitfalls that they are surprised Trump is even attempting it. They say handling such a nuanced topic as religion is a challenge even for the most learned minds and skilled orators. Yet Trump faces that problem and the additional challenge of striking a balance that is unique to his political situation.

Should Trump deliver the speech McMaster promises, it might briefly please his Muslim audience in Riyadh, but anger his right-wing base at home — something Trump seems unlikely to risk given his current precarious political and legal circumstances. On the other hand, if he were to say something to irk his Muslim audience that might satisfy his domestic base, he could sabotage the purpose of the trip and the speech itself: to solidify cooperative partnerships between the United States and Muslim countries to jointly combat terrorism.

“I would shy away from giving a talk like this in this country, much less in Riyadh,” McCants added.

Trump faces all manner of pitfalls. His first test will be whether he says or does anything to erroneously suggest that Saudi Arabia, a repressive regime that enforces Wahhabism, an extreme version of Islam, is representative of the faith. “Much of what Saudi Arabia encourages as proper Islam is not what many Muslims in the West would accept,” said Daniel Byman, a professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a terrorism expert.

The risks are heightened for Trump not just because of his unpredictability, but also because of his — and his inner circle’s — anti-Muslim track record. It’s hard to imagine that Trump would back away from a posture that earned him so much adoration from his base, or from his defense of his immigration ban, in which he has invested substantial domestic political capital.

“I don’t see President Trump as someone who’s going to walk away from that, “said John Espisito, director of the Bridge Initiative, a project at Georgetown University that studies Islamophobia. “He’s not someone who says ‘I got it wrong.’”

But even if Trump were to try to backpedal from his anti-Muslim rhetoric, it still might not necessarily be credible to his audience in Riyadh. As Espisito pointed out, the Trump team’s Islamophobia runs very deep: His top advisers have claimed that Islam is not a religion, but rather a dangerous political ideology. Trump himself has said, “I think Islam hates us” and that the Koran “teaches some negative vibe.” Top strategist Stephen K. Bannon has compared Islam to Nazism, communism and fascism. Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka has refused to say whether Trump himself thinks Islam is a religion.

Beyond this, Trump would have to actually reverse policy — for example, by dropping his immigration ban— to render any possible conciliatory rhetoric even remotely credible. “If the president extends an olive branch but then doesn’t implement any policy changes,” said Byman, “that’s going to send a louder message than a speech.”

Indeed, the risk is that Trump’s speech could make things worse. Byman warned that if Trump commits an accidental misstep or, perhaps worse, is derogatory— which can hardly be ruled out — his speech could potentially further a widespread perception in the Muslim world that the United States is “hostile to Islam.”

Most crucially, said McCants, Trump’s speech could undermine the United States’ relationship with the countries that have agreed to partner with it in combating terrorism. “He doesn’t have to say happy things about Islam to sell them on the partnership,” said McCants. But if he says anything to alienate Muslims, it could “make it harder for Muslim countries to partner with us.”

And that, in the end, could make it harder to achieve Trump’s own stated goal of defeating what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism” than if he had not given a speech on Islam at all.

Source: Trump’s speech on Islam is rife with pitfalls. Experts say there’s little upside to it. – The Washington Post