Chris Selley: Most Canadians support ‘values screening’ — which is neither surprising nor concerning

Good observations by Selley:

Of course we can’t empirically test for violent tendencies, misogyny and indolence. There are many good practical reasons not to pursue these policies. The consensus among bien-pensant campaign watchers is that this is nothing more than a populist “dog whistle” appeal to nativists and xenophobes who believe immigrants are more likely to be violent, misogynist and indolent.

But most Canadians aren’t watching the campaign at all, and couldn’t pick Leitch out of a lineup. If you ask them whether Canada should screen immigrants for objectively undesirable traits, then of course most are going to say yes. It’s absurd to hold that up as evidence of a surge in anti-immigrant sentiment, especially when the poll in question provides plenty of evidence to the contrary: 78 per cent think immigration makes Canada a better place to live or makes little difference; 83 per cent think we have much to learn from other cultures; 79 per cent have no desire to see a Trump-style figure in Canadian politics.

If you were inclined to worry about anti-immigrant sentiment, there’s plenty you could latch on to in this 61-page poll that’s far more disquieting than support for “values screening.” But that’s the genius of a wedge issue like this: it provokes a level of outrage and condemnation that to those not following closely would seem unhinged, which in turn makes the policy and the candidate seem all the more reasonable by comparison.

“Leitch’s proposal to screen every immigrant and visitor is nothing but Donald Trump’s executive order, disguised as Canadian values, and crafted to keep Muslims out of Canada,” leadership candidate Deepak Obhrai said in a statement last week. He suggested it could incite racists to murder, such as in Kansas last month.

I’m disgusted by Leitch’s campaign and even I think that’s crazy. But more to the point, it won’t help. Fighting populism with hyperbole is like fighting fire with kerosene, and it’s strange how few anti-populists seem to realize this. If Leitch’s proposal weren’t surrounded by a bunch of exploding heads and people screaming “Trump! TRUMP!” at her, it would just be one silly, unpractical and unnecessary idea among dozens in play in this campaign.

At times Leitch’s campaign has seemed less like an actual leadership bid and more like a clinical trial of Trump-brand populism in the Canadian body politic. Perhaps it will yield useful data for its architects to use with a less terrible candidate in future. But moderate Conservatives and others arguing in good faith against her really need to up their anti-populist game. Leitch is an intensely unlikable and uninspiring campaign presence who will probably lose. But some day a populist candidate with an ounce of sincerity and charisma might come along with some truly dangerous ideas.

Source: Chris Selley: Most Canadians support ‘values screening’ — which is neither surprising nor concerning | National Post

Chris Selley: Conservatives need pressure release on Islamic extremism, but Manning panel on terrorism was bonkers

Good commentary by Selley:

Goodness knows conservatives could use some pressure-release on the question of Islamic extremism. Ten days ago, four leadership candidates — including two former cabinet ministers — attended a rally whose premise was that a private member’s motion in the House of Commons was a step toward Sharia law and an attack on free speech.

Alas, the terrorism panel released no pressure at all.

“Motion 103 … is essentially akin to the blasphemy laws,” said Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. (M-103 isn’t a law of any sort, and never will be.) She took umbrage at the suggestion by M-103’s sponsor, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, that “more than one million Canadians … suffer because of Islamophobia … on a daily basis.”

Raza: “Seriously? As though in Canada racism and bigotry, only against Muslims, is an everyday issue?” (Six parishioners were recently murdered in a Quebec City mosque. M-103 condemns “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”)

Thomas Quiggin of the Terrorism and Security Experts network then rattled through a deck of slides that would have left an uninformed viewer thinking most every mosque in Canada — including the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, site of the massacre — was funnelling funds to extremist groups. He suggested the English-language media didn’t report on a pig’s head having been delivered to the mosque a year earlier. (They did. Why wouldn’t they?) He suggested intelligence officials should have known about the pig’s head, and that the mosque was supporting extremists, and that the gunman was intending to take his revenge — Quiggin suspects — for that support.

“The cycle of violence has come to Canada as it has in France, Belgium, Germany, the Middle East, and we can no longer deny this,” said Quiggin, and that’s bonkers. The facts in evidence were the attacks in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (one dead), Parliament Hill attack (one dead) and … Quebec City, where the victims were Muslims at prayer!

There are things being said in some Canadian mosques that would cause outrage if they were more widely reported. Why they are not more widely reported is a good question; political correctness is a very plausible answer. But Manning attendees were promised a sober look at the problem, including an effort to “define how serious (it) really is.” What they got were two alarmists. Policy has never been the Manning conference’s forte, but I swear panellists used to mildly disagree with each other now and again, and to have vastly superior resumes.

Four years ago, after Tom Flanagan’s comments about child pornography and Wildrose candidate Alan Hunsperger’s “lake of fire” missive, Manning warned conservatives against “intemperate and ill-considered remarks by those who hold … positions deeply but in fits of carelessness or zealousness say things that discredit the family.” The first question from the audience at the terrorism panel was whether Raza thought it should be illegal to call Muhammad a pedophile.

She didn’t. Neither do I. But this kind of nonsense has great potential to harm the Conservative Party, Michael Chong said Friday in an interview; the last place it should be happening is at Manningstock. And Chong is fairly emblematic of the mess the party now confronts. He supported M-103, a meaningless motion. But he also supports doing away with the hate-speech section of the Criminal Code, a very meaningful restriction on free speech. He supports a simple, revenue-neutral, Economics 101 carbon tax to fight emissions, instead of command-and-control regulations.

He was roundly booed for the later during Friday’s leaders debate. Mainstream Conservatives, never mind the new fringe, sneer that he ought to run for the Liberals.

Source: Chris Selley: Conservatives need pressure release on Islamic extremism, but Manning panel on terrorism was bonkers | National Post

Shannon Proudfoot has an only slightly more gentle take:

The Manning Centre Conference, the pre-eminent gathering of Canadian conservatives, opened in Ottawa on Friday morning with a panel discussion that sounded a stark note of alarm, with a contrarian streak: Islamic extremism exists in Canada, and to believe otherwise is dangerous naiveté.

The discussion was billed as “Leading the Response to Islamist Extremism and its Ideology in Canada,” one of the break-out sessions planned by the Manning Centre, which provides research, training and networking for Canadian conservatives.

The morning panel featured Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, which describes its mission as “oppos(ing) extremism, fanaticism and violence in the name of religion,” and Thomas Quiggin, a self-styled security and terrorism expert who runs the Terrorism and Security Experts network.

….But regardless of his inaccuracies and misleading connections, Quiggin’s arguments seemed to resonate with at least a segment of the Manning Centre audience. They indulged him by turns with disapproving murmurs and incredulous gasps as he theatrically laid out the supposed creeping influence of Islamist extremism in Canada.

As Quiggin worked himself into high dudgeon over what he claimed was the Islamization of Canada’s public schools, out in the audience, the 50-ish woman once again sighed and shook her head in disgust.

At the Manning Conference, an alarming view of Islam

Barbara Kay: Actually, one needn’t be a hysterical bigot to have concerns with M-103, other commentary by Lorne Gunter and Chris Selley

Barbara Kay continues not to understand, or appear not to understand, what M-103 includes and what is do not. Coyne is on much sounder ground than she, despite her examples of unacceptable comments:

In December, for example, Georges Bensoussan, a Morocco-born scholar on Jewish communities in Arab countries, was prosecuted in France, because a complaint was filed against him for incitement to racial hatred by the “Collective Against Islamophobia.” His crime? Two quotations were cited in the charge, taken from an interview last year on a French cultural radio show. Bensoussan said, “Today, we are witnessing a different people in the midst of the French nation, who are effecting a return on a certain number of democratic values to which we adhere,” and “This visceral anti-Semitism proven by the Fondapol survey by Dominique Reynié last year cannot remain under a cover of silence.” (Here he was referring to a 2014 survey finding Muslims in France were nearly three times more likely to be anti-Jewish than French people as a whole.)

If these are not fair comments by Andrew Coyne’s standards, then I do not know what is. But Bensoussan is in the dock for them. His story frightens me — with reason.

Ironically, I happened to come across this story at the same time as it was revealed that in at least two sermons distributed on Youtube, imam Sayyid al-Ghitaoui of Montreal’s Al-Andalus Islamic Centre called for Allah to “destroy the accursed Jews,” to “kill them one by one” and to “make their children orphans and their women widows.” (Has he been fired yet? I ask because only Jewish media considered it a story worth covering.) It’s not as if this imam is unique here either. Imams all over the world say the same and much worse about Jews, citing sacred Islamic texts. ISIL members too tell journalists they are following the prophet Mohammed “in the strictest way.” They feel their Islam is as “real” as those who wrote E-411.
So I say to the petitioners of E-411 that I have received their opinion loud and clear. And now I would like to make up my own mind about Islam, as I do with all contentious issues: that is, according to primary sources, credible commentators, legitimate opinion surveys and so forth.

I do not wish to be told by a petition or by the recommendations of a study based on that petition what I must think — or say in a considered and thoughtful way — about any ideology or belief system in deference to the sensibilities of a specific group in order to earn a seal of non-Islamophobic approval from agenda-driven advocacy groups and their political allies.

I greatly admire Andrew Coyne for his exegetical brilliance in the hermeneutics of electoral reform, but on the subject of creeping Shariah-based blasphemy laws across the Western world, it grieves me to say that he has revealed himself as an authority of rather lesser stature.

Source: Barbara Kay: Actually, one needn’t be a hysterical bigot to have concerns with M-103 | National Post

Lorne Gunter picks up the same slippery slope argumentation:

After arguing it was wrong to tar all Muslims – extremists and moderates – with the same brush, Prof. Kutty then added I was way off base for linking the treatment of suburban Montrealer Antonio Padula with the effects M-103 may have.

Padula is just some guy from the Montreal-area community of Kirkland. One evening shortly after the horrific murders at a Quebec City mosque, Padula saw three police cars pull up outside his home. He was arrested, taken away in cuffs and put in jail for the night, all because police misinterpreted some tweets he posted as promoting hatred toward Muslims.

Kutty said Padula’s treatment had nothing to do with the intent of M-103, that he was being charged under hate crimes and other laws, not under a Parliamentary motion offering support for Muslims.

But that’s how these things start. Too often they begin with well-meaning intentions. Yet once they get into the hands of politically correct bureaucrats, Parliamentary committees and human rights commissioners, they morph into something unrecognizable.

Tremont asked me whether, perhaps, Padula’s treatment was justified given that his indelicate tweets came just days after the bloody shooting. But isn’t that just promoting a climate of fear – fear that everyone who posts politically incorrect tweets is a potential murderer who deserves to be arrested and throw in a cell, and possibly face months of expensive legal defence to clear his name?

The supporters of M-103 insist there is an increasing public climate of hatred and fear against Muslims. But wasn’t the treatment of Padula just as much an overreaction based on fear?

If Muslims shouldn’t be condemned for the actions of a few extremists in their faith, shouldn’t it also hold that Antonio Padula shouldn’t be arrested just because officials are suddenly acting out of fear that everyone who tweets unkind ideas is a potential killer?

Prof. Kutty also said it was wrong to focus on the word Islamophobia because he had a good definition of it. And, I’ll admit, his wasn’t bad. But that’s the problem – everybody has his or her own definition. Give that much leeway to the human rights police and the broadest possible definition will be upheld. There will be more, not fewer, Antonio Padula’s rousted from their beds in the middle of the night for the “crime” of being politically incorrect, or even just ironic.

Source: M-103 could morph into something unrecognizable

Chris Selley nails it beautifully in this commentary, contrasting the federal conservatives with their Ontario counterparts:

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown says he will support Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers’ private member’s motion asking the legislature to “condemn all forms of Islamophobia.”

“I think it’s pretty straightforward to condemn any form of hate,” Brown told reporters Tuesday morning. “In terms of Islamophobia, it is real.” He said he would encourage his MPPs to vote likewise. And there is no sign of significant dissent in the ranks.

That’s a good thing. Private members’ motions compel the government to do precisely nothing. They are not the soil in which legislation grows, nor are they fertilizer. They are farts in the wind. And on thorny issues like Islamophobia or Israel or transgender rights, their primary purpose is often to expose one’s political opponents as holding unsuitable positions and then denounce them.

Nothing good can come from falling into that trap — and if there was any doubt about that, Brown’s former colleagues in Ottawa are proving it in spades.

It is now lost forever in a toxic fog, but there were legitimate debates to be had about Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s private member’s motion M-103, which calls on the government to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” and to “develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.”

Perhaps the platonic ideal of this legislatively inconsequential motion would not single out any one religion. Perhaps it would be worded differently: were he still an MP, Irwin Cotler said he would have proposed replacing “Islamophobia” with “anti-Muslim bigotry” or “anti-Muslim hatred.” That’s perfectly reasonable. To some people Islamophobia means “anti-Muslim bigotry” or “anti-Muslim hatred,” but to others it means what it says: fear of Islam.

You’re allowed to be afraid of religions (though I wouldn’t recommend it), and you’re certainly allowed to criticize religions. Some Canadians spent the entire Stephen Harper era being afraid of evangelical Christians, for example. On Monday the Masjid Toronto mosque apologized for a supplication recorded on its premises asking Allah to “purify Al-Aqsa Mosque (on the Temple Mount) from the filth of the Jews.” (That’s as translated by Jonathan Halevi of CIJ News.) I’m certainly not going to sit here and condemn Jews for “fearing” Islam.

But these are delicate arguments to make even in a regular political climate. It’s quasi-suicidal in today’s political climate — one in which six parishioners were recently gunned down at a mosque in Quebec City; in which protesters have descended on Toronto mosques with signs reading “ban Islam,” “Muslims are terrorists” and the like; and in which some portion of Canadian conservatives who were already leery of Islam have followed Donald Trump’s tire tracks into a ditch of conspiracist madness.

Among the ditch-dwellers and those who flog merchandise to them, M-103 is an “Islamic blasphemy law” that prohibits criticism of Islam or it is the first step (or another!) toward the implementation of Shariah law in Canada. Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media held an entire “free speech” rally based on those premises last week, and four Conservative leadership candidates actually showed up — including whichever demons have seized the bodies of well-regarded diplomat Chris Alexander and orthopaedic surgeon Kellie Leitch. Enough has transpired in the past couple of weeks to fill an entire campaign’s worth of attack ads for the Liberals; they must be thrilled to pieces.

Back at Queen’s Park, there are many grounds on which to question whether Patrick Brown is the best man for the job of ending nearly 14 years of Liberal rule. The Liberals will cast him as the worst Conservative bogeyman since the last worst Conservative bogeyman: anti-abortion, anti-sex-ed, anti-government, the whole lot. Many conservatives, meanwhile, wonder whether there’s much conservatism to Brown at all — or much of anything that outranks political expediency.

But Brown’s outreach to immigrant communities remains one of his key accomplishments; there is no reason to believe he isn’t sincere in supporting Des Rosiers’ motion on principle. And if there are Ontario Tories who do have minor concerns, the Ottawa precedent makes it clear how best to proceed: express those minor concerns by all means, but vote for the motion. There is nothing to be gained by doing otherwise.

This is a low bar the Ontario Tories are clearing here, and it shouldn’t be a surprise. Given that their federal cousins are currently beating themselves around the mouth and ears with that same bar, however, it is nevertheless a reassuring sign of basic political competence, leadership and sanity. It’s quite a world Canadian Conservatives are living in all of a sudden.

Source: Chris Selley: On Islamophobia, Ontario Tories look to pass the very easy test their federal cousins failed

 

Various Commentary on Citizenship Act Changes

Commentary on the Liberal government’s planned changes to citizenship (Bill C-6), from those advocating a more facultative approach (including myself) and former Minister Alexander:

“We are very pleased with the government’s decision to rescind the previous government’s Bill C-24 that made it far more difficult to obtain citizenship and far easier to lose,” said Debbie Douglas of the Ontario Council for Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“We are particularly pleased that we are moving away from two-tier citizenship where dual citizens could have their citizenship revoked. We commend the Liberal government for taking this principled decision.”

The new citizenship bill also makes some new changes by extending immigration authorities’ power to seize documents suspected of fraud and barring those serving conditional sentences from seeking citizenship or counting the time toward the residency eligibility.

Andrew Griffith, a former director-general with the immigration department, said the proposed legislation surprisingly retained many of the provisions passed by the previous government to improve enforcement and integrity of the citizenship system while reducing unreasonable hurdles for would-be citizens.

“They are removing some of the worst abuses the Conservatives did, promoting its diversity and inclusive agenda, without changing the fundamental value of real and meaningful commitment to Canadian citizenship,” Griffith said.

“These proposed changes reflect, apart from revocation, relatively modest changes, in line with the Liberals’ public commitments, and that retain virtually all of the previous government’s integrity measures.”

While he is pleased with the proposed citizenship changes, veteran immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman said those who face citizenship revocation on the grounds of misrepresentation are still not entitled to a hearing – a practice that is under a legal challenge in the federal court.

“Why are we keeping this Harper legacy?” Waldman asked.

Under the Harper government, the citizenship application backlog had ballooned with processing time significantly lengthened. New resources were brought in last year to reduce the wait time.

McCallum said new citizenship applications are now being processed in 12 months and the backlog is expected to be cleared by the end of this year.

In an email to The Canadian Press ahead of the announcement, former Conservative immigration minister Chris Alexander said the changes his government made were in keeping with Canadian values.

“Terrorism, espionage and treason are serious crimes, representing gross acts of disloyalty. They are far more serious violations than covering up minor crimes from one’s past — a common form of misrepresentation,” he said.

The Conservative bill was attacked as setting a dangerous precedent and even challenged, unsuccessfully, as unconstitutional.

In the National Post, John Ivison harshly criticizes the repeal of the revocation provisions (as well as pandering to ethnic voters):

It’s true, as Immigration Minister John McCallum pointed out, that this fulfils an election pledge, made to drive a wedge between the Tories and the ethnic communities that supported them in three elections.

The Conservatives signed their own death warrant by tightening up the family reunification criteria, raising the income threshold necessary for new immigrants to bring in parents and grandparents.

The Liberals campaigned hard on easing those restrictions and on their intention to revoke the Conservative citizenship bill, exploiting fears in ethnic communities that they could be stripped of their citizenship and deported if convicted of a crime.

…. the central failing of this bill. Dual nationals can now be convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying and retain their Canadian citizenship.

You can be supportive of civility, tolerance and inclusion and still believe this move is dangerous and misguided.

Loyalty is the measure of good citizenship.

When you betray that trust, you should forfeit the rights, privileges and duties of being a member of Canadian society.

Dual nationals convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying don’t deserve to keep Canadian citizenship

I am waiting for Ivison’s colleague, Chris Selley, to weigh in given his previous strong criticism of revocation (National Post | Chris Selley: Stripping jihadis’ citizenship feels good. But what good does it do?)

Tasha Kheiriddin in iPolitics starts from the same place but ends with a more nuanced criticism, making a distinction between those who became citizens as children, which should be treated no differently from Canadian-born, and those who became citizens as adults:

But the fear of losing one’s citizenship struck a deep chord with immigrants and native-born Canadians alike. Trudeau’s impassioned defence of citizenship was widely seen as a highlight of that debate — that rare sort of knockout punch pundits and audiences yearn for. The Liberals carried that punch from the debate to the doorstep, where it — coupled with their defence of the niqab and opposition to the Conservatives’ barbaric cultural practices tip line — helped cement the Liberals’ reputation as pro-New Canadian, and the Conservatives’ image as anti-immigrant.
This week, Immigration Minister John McCallum announced that the government would be reversing Bill C-24. “Canadian citizens are equal under the law, whether they were born in Canada or were naturalized in Canada or hold dual citizenship,” McCallum said in a statement. …

The bill also will restore Canadian citizenship to anyone stripped of it under Bill C-24. As a result, Amara will have his citizenship reinstated once the Liberals’ new bill becomes law.

Opponents of the Conservative law decried the creation of two different “classes” of citizens — those born in Canada and those who have dual nationalities. But those individuals are arguably already in two different classes — in fact, more than two, depending on how they obtained their citizenships. Some did so by birth, some due to a parent’s move to Canada, and some by their own choice as an adult. And the implications of revocation for each group can be very, very different.

In Amara’s case, he came to Canada as a 13-year-old. While he arguably took his oath as a child, nothing would have prevented him from renouncing his Jordanian citizenship as an adult. Maintaining it, however, gave him certain advantages, including freedom to live, work and travel in Jordan, where he was born. Those advantages are not available to other Canadians. Should they complain that they’re second-class citizens, because they don’t have the same privileges? Should he complain that he received unequal treatment, when he himself maintains an unequal status?

In the case of dual citizens born in Canada, who hold dual citizenship by virtue of their parents, the situation is somewhat different. Saad Gaya, also one of the Toronto 18, was deemed to have Pakistani citizenship retroactively, due to his parents’ possessing Pakistani nationality. Unlike Amara, Gaya had no connection to his parents’ country, and claimed that he didn’t even have said citizenship. Furthermore, as a child born here, he did not choose Canada. Because of this, he claimed that sending him to Pakistan would constitute “cruel and unusual treatment”.

A better version of the law would be one that allows the state to cancel the Canadian citizenship of a person convicted of treason who obtained that citizenship consciously and deliberately as an adult. This would deter those seeking citizenship for no other reason than to enable them to strike back at their adopted country, or who used their ability to move freely in Canada to facilitate terrorist acts.

While there is no doubt that withdrawal of citizenship should not be subject to the whim of the state, neither should citizenship be completely taken for granted. For citizenship to have value, it must not just be a passport of convenience — or worse, a cover for crime.

Dual nationals convicted of terrorism don’t deserve to keep Canadian citizenship

Comparatively little to no coverage or commentary in Quebec media, unless I missed it.

Chris Selley: If Canadians want to fight for ISIL, why stop them? Because we take care of our own garbage

Chris Selley on stopping would-be jihadist travel:

It’s understandable some are wondering why we’re implementing these de facto exit controls on people determined to bring down the West and all for which it stands. If they want to leave, should we not thank them and wish them a speedy demise? Would we not prefer these people wreak their havoc overseas?

In a word: no. No because Canada is at war with ISIL; it is on the side of the people for whom life is a living hell thanks to ISIL; and we can hardly shrug if our own citizens decide they want to sign up with the enemy. No because grown-up countries take care of their own garbage. And no because it’s reasonable to hope the havoc they can wreak here is vastly less than they could in Syria or Iraq.

It’s certainly disturbing that ISIL’s savage nihilism strikes anyone in the West as an enticing prospect. But accepting that reality, the news (fingers crossed) is mostly good: Canadian police are clearly aware of the threat; they are clearly seized with nipping it in the bud, and apparently not wanting for legal measures to do so; and in at least one of the cases from Montreal over the weekend, they reportedly had help from someone close to the suspect. This suggests those who oppose terrorism (i.e., very nearly everyone) are willing to cooperate with authorities to prevent it. This should hardly be surprising, given the stakes — “My son is now in a butcher shop,” the father of one of Quebec’s ISIL volunteers told CBC in March. “We do not eat, we do not sleep …. Our lives have plunged into horror” — but it is reassuring nevertheless.

It’s also worth considering the havoc we fear. It is not to diminish their crimes or the sacrifice of their victims to remember that Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the Parliament Hill gunman, killed one man each. According to a newly launched public database created by several Canadian universities, in the last roughly 50 years there were 469 fatalities in Canada from terrorist and extremist events. Of those, 329 were on Air India flight 182. Only 10 others were religiously motivated, according to the database, and only one of those — Couture-Rouleau’s attack — was motivated by Islamic extremism. Add Zehaf-Bibeau if you prefer and you get a whopping total of two victims of this ostensibly mortal threat to the Canadian homeland. Ever.

Yes, those victims were recent. Yes, the threat is global. Yes, it is reasonable to think that a movement capable of enticing young Canadians to immigrate to hell on earth could convince them to kill a few people here at home. Yes, it would only take one well-planned or lucky attack to add significantly to the tally. Yes, it is reasonable to demand vigilance.

But evidence suggests we are being vigilant, and that it’s working. In a world with ISIL in it, that’s about all you can hope for. Among the many knocks against the Conservatives’ anti-terrorism legislation is that it could actually impede frontline anti-terror efforts: speech restrictions could deter terrorists from helpfully sharing their plans online, or an imam from inviting the RCMP’s counter-violent extremism team to interact with a parishioner who’s going off the rails. The successes we see this week highlight just what’s at stake.

Chris Selley: If Canadians want to fight for ISIL, why stop them? Because we take care of our own garbage

Chris Selley: Want to be atheist? Be coherent first

Chris Selley on Webber Academy losing its case against no prayer allowed on its premises:

But it’s not hard to see why they lost. Webber claims visible religious practice is a direct affront to its central ethos, but its ethos doesn’t seem to be very coherent: It allows students to wear turbans and hijabs, for example. The school tried to distinguish between garments as “a state of ‘being’” and prayer as “a visible activity,” which the tribunal kiboshed on principle; but in any event the activity wouldn’t have been “visible” had the school provided a private space. And Neil Webber, the school’s president, certainly did himself no favours by suggesting a student quickly crossing himself might not be a problem.

There was confusion as to what was allowed and what wasn’t: At the time they were enrolled, the students’ parents say they were assured prayer space could be made available; the school claims the exact opposite. In fact various teachers were happy to find them prayer space at first. And the confusion is understandable, considering it all rests on an interpretation of the term “non-denominational institution” that precludes prayer. That simply isn’t what “non-denominational” means. Per Oxford, it means “not restricted as regards religious denomination” (my italics).

A school that was more coherently dedicated to a religion-free environment might fare better

Webber is appealing. Sarah Burton, a lawyer at the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, told CBC she wouldn’t be surprised if it wound up at the Supreme Court. But Richard Moon, a University of Windsor law professor who has written extensively on religious freedom, thinks the tribunal got it right. “The school purports to be open to students from all backgrounds,” he notes — indeed its statement of “beliefs and values” promises “an atmosphere where young people of many faiths and cultures feel equally at home” — “and so [it] must accommodate the students’ religious practices … if [it] can do so without great hardship.”

A school that was more coherently dedicated to a religion-free environment might fare better, however. “There is no reason to think that a strong, sincere and sufficiently comprehensive secular belief would not merit protection,” says Victor Muñiz-Fraticelli, a law and political science professor at McGill University: “a strong and principled atheism,” for example; or the French laïcité model promoted by the Agence pour l’Enseignement Français à l’Étranger — a French government agency that accredits francophone schools abroad, including several in Canada. Moon agrees, suggesting a “Bertrand Russell School” or “Richard Dawkins Academy” would also have better luck in the courts.

That’s cold comfort for Webber Academy. But the good news is that any school clearly articulating a “no prayer” policy is very unlikely to attract students for whom prayer is a daily obligation. And if it did, I’d like to think most people would consider any complainers far more unreasonable than the policy.

Chris Selley: Want to be atheist? Be coherent first

National Post editorial board: When church and state collide

National Post on Alberta’s Bill 10 on allowing gay-straight student clubs and the broader issue of separation of church and state (no funding is the cleanest option):

Above all else, this situation is simply undesirable: Governments shouldn’t be telling churches how to worship, and churches shouldn’t be telling legislators how to govern. And the gap between acceptable religious and political opinion seems unlikely to shrink.

Eventually, Canadian governments may have to make a decision: Fund religious schools and other alternatives to the secular public system — directly or through a portable subsidy — and let them teach according to the tenets of their faith or ideology; or don’t fund them at all. It would cause serious political headaches in the short term, but save many more in the long term.

National Post editorial board: When church and state collide

And Don Braid’s harsh criticism of the Bill and the Alberta government’s handling of the issue:

Bill 10 began life by voicing support for formation of alliances, but then allowing schools or school boards to refuse them. This was “balancing” the rights of students with those of parents and elected trustees, the government said.

If the students still wanted their alliances, well, they could appeal to Court of Queen’s Bench.

From the heart of the legislature gasbag, the PCs were actually serious about making gay teenage children march into court like a pack of government lawyers.

Greeted by torrents of scorn, the government backed up — into further absurdity, unfortunately.

Kids would no longer need appeal to the courts. Instead, if a school board refused an alliance, the minister of education would simply approve it.

There was no longer any thought to the precious “right” of schools to refuse gay-straight alliances. Apparently it never meant much to begin with.

But schools could still say no, which seems absurd when the minister would then say yes. How would children feel about that? Worse, the amended bill gives no guarantee that after ministerial approval, kids would be able to meet on school property.

Further ridicule ensued. This sounded like segregation — “normal” kids are welcome to have their club meetings at school, but gay students have to go down the street.

This bill can’t be allowed to stand in modern Alberta — and the government may finally know it.

Don Braid: Alberta backs away from bullying bill that treats gay students as unequal

Chris Selley: Release the video left behind by Parliament Hill shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

Hard to disagree with Selley on this:

There is nothing implausible about Mr. Paulson’s account. But considering the RCMP’s record when it comes to described video, I think Mr. Harper’s trust is misplaced. Seven years ago, when the RCMP finally released Paul Pritchard’s footage of Robert Dziekanski’s fatal encounter with police at the Vancouver airport, it wasn’t just the officers’ clearly excessive force that made headlines. It was also impossible not to notice some, shall we say, significant discrepancies between the RCMP’s previous account of the video and what was actually on it.

The RCMP said the officers didn’t use pepper spray on Mr. Dziekanski because there were too many people around. In fact, they were alone behind Plexiglas. The RCMP said Mr. Dziekanski grabbed something from a desk before he was tasered. He didn’t. The RCMP said there were three officers involved. In fact there were four. The latter falsehood didn’t even seem to serve any purpose. It was as if making stuff up was just standard procedure.

It’s therefore entirely understandable that the missing video invites speculation. Some suspect the RCMP, the government or both want to promote the narrative Mr. Paulson described — a lucid, ideologically motivated gunman; i.e., a terrorist — the better to promote security legislation. Perhaps the video paints a more ambiguous picture. Perhaps it paints a totally different picture, the more conspiratorial will suggest — that of an unhinged, purposeless killer; i.e., not a terrorist.

It’s an infuriating debate, in many ways: Was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau a terrorist or not? Honestly, who cares? We know what he did. He seems to have left us video evidence of why he did it. Had he lived, he would be staring down a life sentence whether or not prosecutors managed to pin the T-word on him. And if there is an appropriate policy or legislative response, it ought to be a response to what he did and why he did it, regardless of whether his actions and motives tick enough boxes to invoke the big scary T-word.

The terrorist-or-not debate can be absurd enough when we have the facts. Without them, it’s even more so. We can’t trust the RCMP’s account of the video. We can’t trust parliamentarians to properly balance civil liberties and security even when the evidence before them is uncontested. There’s only one solution, and it’s an easy one: Release the damn video.

Chris Selley: Release the video left behind by Parliament Hill shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

Lawyers argue law to revoke Canadian citizenship is unconstitutional

A case to watch:

“Once you are a citizen, you are a citizen,” said lawyer Rocco Galati, who brought the case before the court along with lawyer Manuel Azevedo and the Constitutional Rights Centre Inc.

Calling Ottawa’s act “an indirect amendment to the Canadian constitutions,” Paul Slansky, who represented the constitutional rights centre, said the government only has the authority over “aliens and naturalization,” but does not have the power to strip the citizenship of Canadian-born people.

“The issue is whether it can be taken away without your consent with the natural-born and naturalized citizens,” he told Justice Donald Rennie. “The government does not have the authority to legislate on this issue.”

Government lawyers asked the court to dismiss the case because the revocation provision has yet to be enforced and any constitutional challenge should be dealt with when an affected individual brings a case forward.

Federal legal strategy interesting – prefer to have this decided through case law.

Lawyers argue law to revoke Canadian citizenship is unconstitutional | Toronto Star.

And Chris Selley reminds us of the counter-productive aspects of revocation:

Now imagine Rouleau’s and Zehaf-Bibeau’s attacks had been thwarted at the last minute. Presumably they would now be facing terrorism charges. And now imagine they were dual citizens. There would now be mass calls to strip their Canadian citizenship and fire them out of a cannon toward whichever foreign capital issued their second passport. And this would be feasible, in theory anyway, under very popular new Citizenship Act amendments passed into law in June.

I have several philosophical objections to those amendments. But the Rouleau case illustrates its most basic practical flaw. Our sensible strategy is to keep the closest possible tabs on terrorism risks — and, if anything, closer tabs, one would think, on convicted terrorists who are eventually set free. Deportation is the very opposite of close tabs.

On the one hand, we’re seizing passports from people we fear may wind up on the ISIS battlefront. The government is actively publicizing this. On the other hand, the government has endorsed precisely the opposite notion: Get rid of terrorists entirely, and we’ll somehow be more safe.

In fact, a fairly common sentiment on Wednesday was that we would be better off not seizing these people’s passports. Fly to Istanbul, head down to Syria, see if we care. They’ll not be long for this world if they go, according to this view; we can cancel their passports once they leave, marooning them in the Levant; and denying them travel just invites them to turn their anger toward Canadian targets.

These two men were Canada’s responsibility. We nearly caught at least one of them

It’s difficult to overstate how churlish this is. It would amount to bolstering the forces of an enemy with which we’re at war. Perhaps 100 or so Canuck jihadists wouldn’t make much of a difference to the overall mission — but they could make an awful lot of innocent people’s lives miserable before finding themselves in the crosshairs of a coalition jet.

The Conservatives aren’t making that case, of course. It would be seen as morally bankrupt, which it is. But its difficult to draw a moral line between that case and the Conservatives’ own stated eagerness to pass off our terrorist garbage on other nations — indeed, the latter encourages the former.

These two men were Canada’s responsibility. We nearly caught at least one of them. We need to redouble our efforts and keep our eyes on the ball, not indulge childish exile fantasies.

Chris Selley: Our bad jihadi apples: Squash them or chuck them?

Canadians in terrorist armies threaten us all – CSIS and Canadian Responsibility

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director Michel Coulombe’s op-ed on radicalization. Not much new in his overview, and no particular insights into why some are radicalized or not, but nevertheless worth reading.

I found however his comment below interesting in light of the Government’s recent changes to the Citizenship Act providing for revocation in cases of dual nationals engaged in terrorist activities.

Coulombe is saying that this is a “Canadian problem.”

Indeed, so why therefore should we banish or exile them, rather than locking them up in Canada?

Even if a Canadian extremist does not immediately return, he or she is still a Canadian problem. No country can become an unwitting exporter of terrorism without suffering damage to its international image and relations. Just as Canada expects other nations to prevent their citizens from harming Canadians and Canadian interests, we too are obligated to deny Canadian extremists the ability to kill and terrorize people of other countries.

 

Same point made by Chris Selley of the National Post, among others (Stripping jihadis’ citizenship feels good. But what good does it do?Actually, my citizenship is a right):

Canadians in terrorist armies threaten us all – The Globe and Mail.