Proposed citizenship oath change prompts some to call for more education about Indigenous people: Consultations

Good account of the results of the consultations:

A revised oath of citizenship that will require new Canadians to faithfully observe the country’s treaties with Indigenous people is nearly complete.

The proposed new text was put to focus groups held by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in March, following months of consultation by departmental officials.

The language comes from the 94th and final recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined the legacy of Canada’s residential schools.

Implementing that recommendation was one of the tasks given to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen when he was sworn into his portfolio in January 2017, but work on it began soon after the commission delivered its recommendations in late 2015, briefing notes for the minister suggest.

Focus groups mixed on proposed changes

The notes, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, show the government also wants to modify the script delivered by those who preside over citizenship ceremonies. The proposed notes say the script should refer to ceremonies on traditional territories, and include remarks on the history of Indigenous people.

When it comes to the oath, the inclusion of a reference to treaties is the only proposed change.

Changing the wording requires a legislative amendment to the Citizenship Act. The Liberals are in the process of overhauling the act in a bid to make citizenship easier to obtain.

When the proposed text was put to focus groups composed of both recent immigrants and longtime Canadian residents, reaction was generally positive, according to a report posted online by the Immigration Department this week.

But there was a caveat: “Participants only agreed with the modifications insofar as newcomers are adequately educated about Indigenous Peoples and the treaties,” the report said.

“Many felt that they themselves would struggle with this new formulation, given their own limited knowledge of the treaties.”

Some wondered about the need for changes at all.

“A few participants took it upon themselves to question the need to modify the oath and that it might represent a precedent whereby other groups in Canada will want to be represented in the oath,” the report said.

The new oath comes along with a major overhaul of the study guide used for the citizenship exam. A draft copy obtained by The Canadian Press earlier this year revealed it, too, will include extensive references to Indigenous history and culture.

The Liberals had originally been aiming to unveil both the new guide and oath around Canada Day, but work is ongoing.

It reads: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

Source: Proposed citizenship oath change prompts some to call for more education about Indigenous people – Politics – CBC News

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Pope gets political in Italy’s debate on citizenship for immigrants

Not totally surprising:

While in the United States, the concept that the Vatican might influence public policy is outrageous, in Italy, the relationship between politics and the Catholic Church is like a well-made cappuccino: The espresso and milk foam may seem separated at first, but once you drink it, they blend into one.

Popes theoretically handed in their temporal power almost 150 years ago, but their voice and opinions still hold considerable weight in public discourse, which, in Italy as well as in many parts of the world these days, is centered around the immigrant crisis.

In the past, Pope Francis has been hesitant, if not downright opposed, to using his hefty popularity to intervene directly in matters of Italian public policy. But while the pope remained quiet as Italy’s parliament passed a law on de facto-couples, which critics say opened the road towards gay marriage, he was vocal on a recently proposed law concerning citizenship to the children of long-term immigrants.

The legislation is based on the concept of ius soli, which establishes citizenship depending on where you are born and not ius sanguinis, requiring a blood lineage, and would offer citizenship to the children of immigrants born in Italy who have completed at least five years in the Italian school system.

Under Italy’s current ius sanguinis system, it’s difficult and somewhat rare for the children of immigrants to the country to acquire citizenship. Under a ius soli standard, it would become much easier.

The country’s senate is currently at a standstill on the law, with opposing parties entrenched in a battle where no political blows are spared.

At the weekly general audience Sep. 27, Francis extended his arms wide toward St. Peter’s square and called faithful to welcome migrants and refugees.

“Just like this,” the pope said, “arms wide open, ready for a sincere, affectionate, enveloping embrace.” He then praised the work done by the civil organizations involved in collecting signatures in order to push the ius soli legislation forward.

This wasn’t the first, nor most adamant time the pope publicly expressed his support for the legislation, causing distress and outrage on the part of those who strongly oppose it. Matteo Salvini, leader of the populist right-wing party Northern League tweeted that if the pope “wishes to apply the law in his State, the Vatican, he can go ahead. But as a Catholic, I don’t believe Italy can welcome and sustain the entire world. To God what is of God and to Caesar what is of Caesar. Amen,” to which he added his staple hashtag ‘stoptheinvasion.’

The pope had used the same quote from the Gospel in an interview with sociologist Dominique Wolton, where he stressed how “the lay state is a healthy thing,” but Francis’s recent statements on the ius soli show that when the topic is close to his heart, he is not willing to back down.

…A chorus of priests, bishops and cardinals joined in their support of the ius soli legislation, with Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian Bishop’s Conference (CEI), saying that if a way was found to accelerate things with regards to the rights of same-sex couples, “the same attention should be given to the rights of Italians left without citizenship.”

“The Vatican doesn’t vote,” the bishop clarified, “but the Church is bound to call out the heart of the matter.”

On Sep. 25 the president of CEI, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, also joined the ranks in favor of the controversial law, adding that while welcoming immigrants is an important first step, “there is another responsibility, promulgated over time, that has to be tackled with prudence, intelligence and realism.”

Many reporters spotted a difference of expression between Francis’s “open arms” approach and CEI’s call to caution, but Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, quickly shot them down.

“You can welcome people with open arms, but also with prudence,” Parolin told reporters Sep. 27, before taking part in Rome’s Lateran University’s conference sponsored by the pontifical organization Aid to the Church in Need on the situation facing Christians in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains area.

“The fundamental thing is welcome, because they are our brothers and sisters,” Parolin said. The prelate said that in the context of this “very intense Italian political debate,” it’s best if the Vatican sticks with “recalling principles.”

“What’s important is that these people not just be welcome but integrated, so that they can be inserted in a positive way into the fabric of our society,” Parolin said.

Source: Pope gets political in Italy’s debate on citizenship for immigrants

From My Detention in Malaysia, Thoughts on Islam and Tolerance – Mustafa Aykol

Good piece:

I am writing this column from an airplane, on my way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to my new home, Wellesley, Mass. I’m in a comfortable seat, and I’m looking forward to getting back to my family. About 12 hours ago, though, I was miserable, locked in a holding cell by Malaysia’s “religious police.”

The story began a few months ago, when the Islamic Renaissance Front, a reformist, progressive Muslim organization in Malaysia, invited me to give a series of lectures on Islam, reason and freedom. The group had hosted me three times before in the past five years for similar events and also published the Malay version of my book “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.” I was glad for the chance to visit Malaysia again.

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 22. The next day I gave my first lectureon the suppression of rational theology by dogmatists in early Islam, making the point that this “intellectual suicide” still haunts Muslim civilization.

The second talk was on a more controversial topic: apostasy from Islam. I argued that Muslims must uphold freedom of conscience, in line with the Quranic dictum “No compulsion in religion.” I said that apostasy should not be punished by death, as it is in Saudi Arabia, or with “rehabilitation,” as it is in Malaysia. The practice of Islam must be on the basis of freedom, not coercion, and governments shouldn’t police religion or morality.

It turns out all you have to do is speak of the police and they will appear.

At the end of my talk, a group of serious-looking men came into the lecture hall and showed me badges indicating that they were “religion enforcement officers.”

“We heard that you just gave an unauthorized talk on religion,” one of the men said. “And we got complaints about it.” They took me to another room, photographed me and asked questions about my speech.

When they were done with their questioning, they handed me a piece of paper with Malay writing on it and told me that I shouldn’t speak again without proper authorization. They also warned me away from my next planned talk, which was going to be about my most recent book, “The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims.”

“We heard that you will speak about commonalities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity,” one officer said. “We don’t like that kind of stuff.” Then they left.

After all this, I consulted with my hosts, and we decided to cancel the final lecture. I assumed that was the end of the matter and went shopping for gifts for my wife and children.

“You need to wait, sir,” said the woman who checked my passport. She called some police officers, who called other police officers, who took me to a room where my arrest order was read to me. Apparently the religious police, known as JAWI, wanted to interrogate me again for my “unauthorized” talk on religious freedom and had issued that arrest order to make sure I didn’t leave the country.

I was taken from the airport to a police station, then to another station. Finally, I was taken to the JAWI headquarters, where I was locked up.

To be fair, nobody was rude to me, let alone cruel. Still, I was distressed: I had been arrested in an alien country whose laws and language I did not understand. I had no idea what would happen to me — and, most painfully, when I would see my wife, Riada, our 2-year-old son, Levent, and our 2-month-old baby, Efe.

In the morning, I was taken to a Shariah court, which is used in Malaysia to adjudicate religious issues, where I was interrogated for two hours. At the end, to my surprise, I was let go. Soon I learned that this was greatly facilitated by the diplomatic efforts of my country, Turkey — and especially the contact made by a former Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, with Malaysian royalty.

This incident showed me once again that there is a major problem in Islam today: a passion to impose religion, rather than merely proposing it, a mind-set that most Christians left behind at the time of the Inquisition.

Luckily, there are antidotes within Islam to this problem. One of them is the Quranic verse that the JAWI officers repeatedly chided me for daring to recite: “No compulsion in religion.”

In fact, mainstream Muslim tradition, reflecting its illiberal context, never fully appreciated the freedom implied by this verse — and other ones with similar messages. “The ‘no compulsion’ verse was a problem to the earliest exegetes,” as Patricia Crone, a scholar of Islamic history, has noted. “And they reacted by interpreting it restrictively.” The verse was declared “abrogated,” or its scope was radically limited.

This is still evident in a parenthetical that is too frequently inserted into translations of the verse. “There shall be no compulsion in religion (in becoming a Muslim).” I’d known that Saudi translations added those extra words at the end. Now I have learned that the Malaysian authorities do, too. They append the extra phrase because while they agree with the Quran that no one should be forced to become a Muslim, they think that Muslims should be compelled to practice the religion — in the way that the authorities define. They also believe that if Muslims decide to abandon their religion, they must be punished for “apostasy.”

One of the officers at my Malaysian Shariah court trial proudly told me that all of this was being done to “protect religion.” But I have an important message for her (which I didn’t share at the time): By policing religion, the authorities are not really protecting it. They are only enfeebling their societies, raising hypocrites and causing many people to lose their faith in or respect for Islam.

I came to understand that while I was being held in the JAWI headquarters, listening to a loud Quranic recitation coming from the next room. I heard the Quran and for the first time in my life it sounded like the voice of an oppressor. But I did not give in to that impression. “I hear you and I trust in you, God,” I said as I prayed, “despite these bigots who act in your name.”

Massey College under pressure to cut ties with professor after comment denounced as racist

Surprising that someone like Marrus whose extensive scholarship on the Holocaust and human rights could make such a flippant and inappropriate remark:

Massey College, an independent residential college affiliated with the University of Toronto, is under pressure from faculty and students to sever its relationship with one of the university’s professors after a comment he made was denounced as racist.

The comment was made during lunch on Tuesday by Michael Marrus, an emeritus history professor at the University of Toronto, scholar of the Holocaust, and a Senior Fellow at Massey.

Dr. Marrus was sitting with three Junior Fellows, graduate or professional students whose academic and extracurricular accomplishments have earned them a prestigious residence spot at Massey.

Hugh Segal, who leads the school and has the title of Master of Massey College, asked whether he could join the table. At that point, Dr. Marrus asked a black Junior Fellow: “You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?”

After the students left the table, Mr. Segal stayed and spoke to the professor.

“I made it clear to the Senior Fellow that the remark was completely inappropriate,” Mr. Segal said.

The three students took the issue to the dean of the college the same day and the comment was raised at a meeting of Massey’s governing board the same day. A written complaint by nine students – the three present during the lunch and additional members of the diversity committee – has been lodged with Mr. Segal, who is working with Massey’s governing board to deal with the requests made by the students.

In the wake of the comments, a petition signed by almost 200 faculty and students was sent to Massey College on Thursday asking for Dr. Marrus to end his association with the college.

“In our eyes, the very legitimacy of Massey College hinges on the effectiveness of your response to this incident,” the petition states. “We encourage you to approach this moment with the seriousness it demands, and with the courage and vision to make this an occasion for fulsome transformation.”

The petition also asks that the college issue a formal public apology, organize mandatory anti-racism training and drop the title “master” to refer to its director.

Mr. Segal said he would be open to that change.

“The term is tied to Oxbridge and the idea of master of one’s craft or art, not a master-slave reference. But we should be open to revision if it is no longer appropriate,” he said.

That demand has been made in the past. As a result, a task force has worked for several months examining whether to drop the title. It will report back in several weeks, Mr. Segal said.

He has also invited the students to meet with him.

Dr. Marrus did not respond to a request for comment. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the author of eight books on the Holocaust, including The Holocaust in History, Lessons of the Holocaust and co-author of Vichy France and the Jews, and a former dean of the University of Toronto’s school of graduate studies.

That history does not excuse the remark or make it less hurtful or offensive, Mr. Segal said.

“His scholarship would indicate someone who has fought his entire life for human rights. Younger Junior Fellows may not be familiar with it; it is reasonable to react how they did,” he said.​

Source: Massey College under pressure to cut ties with professor after comment denounced as racist – The Globe and Mail

Pluralism is a path to lasting peace and prosperity: Outgoing Governor General Johnston

Well stated:

A predecessor, Vincent Massey, once said: “Canada is not a melting pot. Canada is an association of peoples who have, and cherish, great differences but who work together because they can respect themselves and each other.” Today we call this pluralism, and I believe Canada’s opportunity lies in its ability to show the world how pluralism is a viable path to lasting peace and prosperity. Canada is a social innovation, a constantly evolving work-in-progress based upon the notion that diverse peoples can live and work together toward an ever-more inclusive, fair and just society.

Of course, we have no cause for complacency. Intolerance does exist here and it is essential that we resist efforts to reduce diversity and restrict inclusiveness. Canada’s progress as a country has always grown from a commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and pluralism. Success in such a vast, diverse and challenging land requires that we work together. This is the story of our country and it’s important that we know and understand its uniqueness, significance and how embedded the principles of partnership and compromise are in the very fabric of Canada. This is the path forward.

There are two related, critical elements that Canada should pay close attention to in the years to come: learning and trust. As a lifelong student and teacher, I believe education is the key to ensuring equality of opportunity for all Canadians and to achieving the pinnacles of excellence that allow us to innovate and lead in a technologically advanced world. From early-childhood education and literacy to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to research at the outer limits of knowledge, we must make learning a central part of our lives. Doing so will reinforce the second critical element – trust – by which I mean trust in one another and in the institutions which are the glue that binds Canadians together. Inequalities and the rapid changes brought about by globalization have undermined trust in Canada and throughout much of the world, but a society that learns and works together in an inclusive manner will see the basis for that sense of mistrust replaced by a sense of hope.

So, what have I learned as Governor-General? One, while Canada still has much work to do in building a more inclusive society, our diversity is a strength and a comparative advantage in the world. Two, in Canada, past, present and no doubt future, we’re stronger and more prosperous when we compromise and work together. And three, despite our many cultures, ethnic origins and languages spoken, we all have a great deal in common – a great deal called Canada. Let this be a country that draws on the diverse talents and abilities of all its peoples in steering a course through this complex, changing world.

Source: Pluralism is a path to lasting peace and prosperity – The Globe and Mail

After 200 years without land title, Nova Scotia black communities offered hope

Hard to understand why this took so long:

The empty lot in North Preston, N.S., has been in the hands of Elaine Cain’s family for many years, a connection that stirs in her a sentimental bond with the piece of land.

But despite the fact her family has long paid property taxes on it, they have never held the deed.

On Wednesday, Cain welcomed as a “bright day” an announcement by the Nova Scotia government that it will provide funding to help people in five historically black communities gain legal ownership over land they’ve claimed as theirs for generations.

“I think it will be great because this is what we have been looking for,” she said in an interview. “It will give us … a boost, actually, to do whatever it is that we have or plan to do. I’m confident that they’ll help me.”

The province said it will spend $2.7 million over two years to help residents obtain legal title to land in the communities of North Preston, East Preston and Cherry Brook in the Halifax Regional Municipality, and in Lincolnville and Sunnyville in Guysborough County.

No deeds to black settlers

The problem can be traced back two centuries, when the government gave plots of land to Black Loyalists for their support during the American Revolutionary War and to Black Refugees, former slaves who sought refuge after the War of 1812. The government, however, did not give deeds, which meant those who settled never officially owned the land they lived on.

The repercussions today are that, without clear title, residents cannot sell their property or legally pass it down to other relatives. The province says that out of the 1,620 total land parcels in Cherry Brook, East Preston and North Preston, for instance, about a third are without clear title.

Cain said she’s had her property surveyed, but because of a dispute with some family members, she can’t get the deed. She said she needs money to pay for legal costs.

If she gets clear title, Cain plans to build a home and a small teahouse for seniors. She hopes to make an application for funding within a week.

African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince made the funding announcement Wednesday in Cherry Brook. The money will pay for a surveyor and two surveyor technicians, two community liaison officers to help residents with the process, and will help cover legal fees related to clarifying land ownership.

Source: After 200 years without land title, Nova Scotia black communities offered hope – Nova Scotia – CBC News

Hearing into Liberals’ anti-Islamophobia motion [M-103] showcases confusion, fears of free speech loss

Interesting that the Post seems to be only covering the hearings with CPC-nominated witnesses:

27 Sep:

  • Jay Cameron, Justice Centre of Constitutional Freedoms
  • Raheel Raza,  Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow
  • Peter Bhatti, International Christian Voice
  • Father Raymond de Souza

and not the hearings with government-appointed ones:

25 Sep:

  • Ayesha S. Chaudhry, Canada Research Chair in Religion, Law and Social Justice
  • Avvy Yao-Yao Go, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
  • Shawn Richard, Canadian Association of Black Lawyers
  • Shalini Konanur, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.

Lack of reporter time, or lack of balance?

The Liberals’ anti-Islamophobia motion, M-103, could lead to thought control, oppression, disharmony and the criminalization of non-Muslims, the House of Commons heritage committee heard Wednesday, during some of the most extreme criticism of the motion it has heard to date.

It was a hearing that showcased much of the confusion and polarizing rhetoric that has swirled around M-103 since it was tabled by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid in December 2016, and highlighted doubts about the language of the motion. While the committee is supposed to be gathering recommendations for how to combat racism, several committee members spent much of their time trying to explain what M-103 actually means.

Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin was at pains to clarify that the motion is not a law, that the committee is not drafting a law and that the committee’s recommendations won’t create a new law. The committee is currently conducting a study of racism and religious discrimination, as required by M-103, which was passed in March.

“We’re just doing a study,” said Liberal MP Julie Dzerowicz.

The Liberals spent so much time trying to explain M-103 that, at one point, Conservative MP David Anderson accused them of “filibustering their time.”

“It seems they’ve been more interested in hearing their own voices than anyone else’s,” he said.

Still, some of the witnesses painted dire portraits of what might happen if criticism of Islam were somehow banned in Canada. Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Centre of Constitutional Freedoms, spent several minutes explaining that M-103 could prevent Canadians from criticizing such practices as female genital mutilation. He also claimed the motion implies that the government should police the thoughts of its citizens.

Source: Hearing into Liberals’ anti-Islamophobia motion showcases confusion, fears of free speech loss | National Post

Border agency reports big drop in number of long-term detainees

Latest numbers:

The number of people being held for more than 90 days in immigration detention centres has declined by almost a third this year over last year, according to statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency.

The figures show that the number of detainees being held for three months or longer dropped by 29.9 per cent in 2016-17 compared with 2015-16. They also show a decline since 2012-13 of 35.3 per cent.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) told CBC News that it is using federal funding announced last year to expand the use of alternatives to detention.

“The funding received is dedicated to developing and deploying a technology-enabled voice reporting solution that will make it easier for low-risk persons to comply with reporting conditions imposed by CBSA officers or the Immigration and Refugee Board, while living in the community,” a CBSA spokesperson said in an email to CBC.

Detainees are also now locked up an average of 19.5 days, down from 23.1 days last year, according to the agency’s statistics.

Last year, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced $138 million for a new national immigration detention framework, with the aim of creating a more humane system.

Part of the money is being spent on a new immigration holding centre (IHC) in Surrey, B.C., which should open in December 2018. The centre in Laval, Que., is scheduled for completion in 2021. The Toronto holding centre is also being upgraded.

“By July 2018 the Toronto IHC will be equipped to house higher-risk detainees, allowing more individuals in provincial detention facilities to be transferred to the IHC on a case-by-case basis,” CBSA said in the email.

Detention in jails

On any given day in Canada, hundreds of people are detained under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Last year the border agency detained 6,251 people, 32.6 per cent of which were held at non-CBSA facilities such as provincial jails, even though they had not been charged with a crime.

“Detaining people long-term at short-term detention facilities is extremely problematic, and especially when some of the detentions are going on for a very long time, into the years,” said Lorne Waldman, a prominent Toronto immigration and refugee lawyer.

Immigration detainees are sent to provincial jails when they’re high-risk, aren’t close to a holding centre or, in the Vancouver area, held for more than 48 hours.

Source: Border agency reports big drop in number of long-term detainees – Politics – CBC News

Trump Administration To Drop Refugee Cap To 45,000, Lowest In Years : NPR

A smaller percentage than others. USA already had far fewer refugees than others in 2016:

EU USA Canada Australia
2016 Population

510,100,000

323,100,000

36,290,000

24,130,000

Refugees resettled or granted asylum

720,000

84,994

58,910

17,955

Per capita percent

0.14%

0.03%

0.16%

0.07%

The Trump administration plans to cap the number of refugees the U.S. will accept next year at 45,000. That is a dramatic drop from the level set by the Obama administration and would be the lowest number in years.

The White House formally announced its plans in a report to congressional leaders Wednesday, as required by law.

The number of refugees the U.S. admits has fluctuated over time. But this cap is the lowest that any White House has sought since the president began setting the ceiling on refugee admissions in 1980.

Refugee resettlement agencies are disappointed with the 45,000 cap, which they say falls far short of what is necessary to meet growing humanitarian needs around the world. They had recommended a limit of at least 75,000.

Last year, the Obama administration set the cap at 110,000. Only about half that number have been admitted, after the Trump administration put the entire refugee resettlement program on hold under its travel ban executive orders.

“Churches and communities, employers and mayors, are heartsick at the administration’s callous and tragic decision to deny welcome to refugees most in need,” said Linda Hartke, the president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of largest resettlement agencies in the country.

The debate over refugees is often framed as a clash between humanitarian goals and national security.

But Trump administration also argues that the U.S. spends millions of dollars a year to screen and resettle refugees and to help them once they arrive.

“For the cost of resettling one refugee in the U.S., we can assist more than 10 in their home region,” President Trump said in a speech to the United Nations earlier this month.

Once they arrive, refugees qualify for many social services, including health care, food stamps and cash assistance. Many of those costs fall on state and local governments, and some states are pushing back.

Earlier this year, Tennessee took the federal government to court over refugee resettlement.

“The bottom line is the federal government is coercing the state of Tennessee to spend Tennessee taxpayers monies in ways that some individual Tennesseans disagree with,” Republican state Sen. John Stevens told member station WPLN in March.

But many mayors across the country see refugees as an economic boon for their cities.

“These people are paying taxes. They’re buying houses. They’re going into our schools,” said Stephanie Miner, the mayor of Syracuse, N.Y.

Miner, a Democrat, says refugees are helping revitalize the city’s north side, which was home to Italian and German immigrants before them.

Source: Trump Administration To Drop Refugee Cap To 45,000, Lowest In Years : NPR

Penguins’ White House decision means Crosby can’t ‘stick to sports’ – Sportsnet.ca

Good analysis:

The president’s call for the release of NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice caused widespread backlash across the league this weekend. According to the Chicago Tribune, more than 200 players took a knee or sat on the bench while the anthem was played. Three teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, remained in their locker-rooms for the anthem. (Steelers offensive lineman, Alejandro Villanueva, an Army veteran, stood at the mouth of the players’ tunnel for the anthem by himself, though he has said that was due to a mistake.)

The president also disinvited the Golden State Warriors from visiting the White House as NBA champions, because the team’s star player, Steph Curry, said he wouldn’t attend — causing further backlash from NBA stars, like LeBron James and many others.

Curry says Trump’s comments just cement Warriors stance on White House visit

In the midst of it all, the Pittsburgh Penguins released a statement saying that they would, indeed, be attending the White House in celebration of the team’s Stanley Cup victory. That decision — not to mention the timing of the announcement — resulted in an outpouring of both criticism of and support for the Penguins.

When he was asked for his thoughts on visiting the White House by reporters after an exhibition game on Sunday, Crosby faced a polarizing question — whether he realized it or not.

“I support it,” the Penguins captain said. “It’s a great honour for us to be invited there.”

Despite Crosby’s honest efforts to be inoffensive, there was simply no way around it this time. He was going to offend one side or the other regardless.

And in that moment, Crosby made a statement about what he, his team and, yes, the NHL stand for.

Because in Trump’s America, sports and politics are inextricably linked. They’ve been mashed together like two mounds of Play-Doh in the hands of a toddler. And so Crosby was handed a discoloured pile of highly political mush, courtesy both of the president and of his own team’s decision to make an announcement about going to the White House.

This is the kind of discomfort that neither Crosby nor the NHL is used to.

Hockey is the least diverse of the major North American pro sports leagues. It is a sport that is by and large dominated by white people. And it is a sport that, for the most part, only the affluent can afford to play.

For those reasons, the NHL has less connection to the issues that are at the forefront in leagues like the NFL and the NBA. The majority of NHL players don’t face the systemic racism that their counterparts do. And so, in all its whiteness, the NHL doesn’t carry the social conscience that other leagues do. In fact, it deliberately tries not to.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has expressed his preference that players remain apolitical when representing the league. Meanwhile, Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has encouraged the players in the league to use their platforms to express their views.

The NFL, NBA and WNBA all have players who have long used their platform to protest the systemic racism that people of colour face in the United States. Some prominent baseball players, like Adam Jones, have also spoken out against racism. Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell also knelt during the anthem on the weekend.

Although hotly debated, these protests have all been peaceful, respectful and eloquently explained by those who take part or support those who do. But the NHL has slipped through the controversy relatively unchallenged. Questions of race are left to black players such as P.K. Subban and Wayne Simmonds.

Still, hockey hasn’t been completely devoid of opinion. In recent years, several players in the NHL have shared their views about politics and social issues. Tim Thomas refused to meet with President Barack Obama when the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Earlier this year, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri was critical of President Trump’s ban on people entering the United States from specific Muslim-majority countries. Mika Zibanejad of the New York Rangers spoke about the difficulty the ban created for his family still living in Iran. This weekend, Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler slammed the president on Twitter for his comments regarding protesting athletes.

Source: Penguins’ White House decision means Crosby can’t ‘stick to sports’ – Sportsnet.ca

Robyn Urback’s take, after correctly calling out those using intemperate language criticizing Crosby:

Personally, I would have liked to see Crosby turn down the invite for any number of reasons: Trump’s attacks on athletes, women, immigrants, the U.S. Constitution and a normal news cycle, or for appearing to declare war on North Korea over Twitter. Take your pick.

I suspect Crosby assumed, rather adorably, that accepting the White House invitation was the less political of his two options. And after theexcoriation Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas received for skipping his team’s White House visit in 2012, it’s not hard to see why he might think that.

Two wrong choices

But in 2017, there is no such thing as an apolitical move. Crosby was damned either way. He’d either be a Trump sympathizer by accepting the invitation, or a rogue liberal by turning it down.

Ideally, there would be room for some nuance, but we seem to exist in a climate now where there’s this impulse to characterize everyone — athletes, actors, co-workers, etc. — as either “with us” or “against us,” which is absolutely being encouraged by the guy in the White House.

Indeed, separating people into “good” and “bad” is straight from the Trump playbook, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to play along. We don’t have to see an athlete who visits the White House or chooses to stand during the national anthem as a de facto Trump sympathizer; perhaps he disagrees with Colin Kaepernick’s method of protest, or fears being seen as anti-American, or maybe he just wants to try to stay out of it, to the extent that’s possible.

There is an argument to be made, however, that someone who does nothing in the face of injustice is himself guilty of perpetuating that injustice. It’s a fair point, which is why Crosby doesn’t exactly deserve a high-five for shrugging off the president’s bizarre views on the free speech rights of athletes.

But it’s unrealistic to expect every prominent figure in the world to declare his or her position on this presidency. Some people just aren’t built for it (which, granted, speaks to an extraordinary level of privilege, since some people have to be political, whether they want to or not). Hockey players are not exactly known for their thoughtful takes on social justice.

In any case, Crosby is not the enemy. If there is an enemy here, it’s his indifference, which won’t be challenged by sending him a tweet calling him a moral leper.

You don’t change minds by dividing people into camps and declaring as enemies those with whom you disagree. And you don’t change minds by yelling at strangers on the internet.

Change happens when those with whom we disagree are seen as potential allies, not hopeless adversaries. Crosby could be an ally. Or else he’ll just be a pretty good hockey player.