The Political Payoff of Making Whites Feel Like a Minority – New York Times

Interesting analysis of identity politics in action:

Nationality, race and ethnicity are a large part of identity for most people. Factors like this matter more for some people than others — and for some groups more than others — but a sense of group awareness or membership exists in varying degrees across all segments of American society.

Often it’s easy to see the signifiers of such group identity, in distinctive music, food or clothing, for example. But sometimes when symbols or language are co-opted, it is harder to spot. In 2015, Donald J. Trump’s “make America great again” and “build a wall” started out as simple but powerful slogans. As time went on, they became more infused with a specific meaning that symbolized the concerns and preferences of a substantial set of white Americans.

Mr. Trump’s appeals were a form of group politics or identity politics, and he continues to focus on threats to white identity as president.

Some Trump critics find his focus on whites as a group outrageous or counterproductive. But survey data suggest that many white Americans do feel threatened, and that they think there are policies that discriminate against them and should be changed.

Two examples of the president’s efforts and the underlying support for his positions illustrate these trends.

On Wednesday, he offered his support for a bill that would cut legal immigration to the United States in half, saying “this legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.” To achieve its goal, the plan would limit entry for some family members of American citizens and permanent residents.

In explaining how limiting the entry of relatives would put the needs of American families first, a White House policy adviser, Stephen Miller, said it was “common sense” that immigration was costing Americans jobs. He then suggested that the family members who would be denied entry under the proposal were largely low-skill workers who were taking jobs away from struggling Americans.

The claim about who, if anyone, suffers from the immigration of low-skilled workers is nuanced. Debate on the question is active. If people come to America because they have a relative living here, it does not mean by definition that they are low-skilled workers. Despite the difficulty of nailing down the effects of low-skilled immigration on American families, public opinion on the topic — at least for a particular set of Americans — may reflect the “common sense” Mr. Miller described.

In January 2016, the American National Election Study asked 875 white Americans this question: How likely is it that many whites are unable to find a job because employers are hiring minorities instead? On average, 28 percent of the white population thought it was extremely or very likely that white people could not find work because of minorities seeking those same jobs. Roughly half the white population thought it was at least moderately or slightly likely. Only 21 percent thought this was not at all likely.

Differences emerge across party lines, even among whites. Close to 20 percent of Democrats thought it was extremely likely that the prospects for white job-seekers would be threatened by the presence of minority workers, while 34 percent of Republicans (and 30 percent of independents) felt this way.

Among white Republicans and independents, an even greater divide becomes clear: White voters who preferred Mr. Trump to one of the other candidates in the Republican field were nearly twice as likely to anticipate white job loss to nonwhite workers (48 percent compared with 24 percent).

The survey also asked white people how important it was for whites to work together to change laws that are unfair to whites. On average, 38 percent said it was extremely or very important. Only a quarter thought it was not important at all — a category that presumably also encompasses people who thought no such laws existed.

These trends also help to frame President Trump’s other recent announcement that the Justice Department would be investigating college admissions procedures that might discriminate against white applicants.

The difference between white Democrats and Republicans on the importance of uniting as a group against discriminatory laws is only five percentage points, with Republicans believing it was more important than Democrats and independents.

The divide, however, among Republicans who preferred Mr. Trump in the primaries and those who chose someone else is overwhelming. Nearly 60 percent of Mr. Trump’s primary supporters thought organizing to change laws that are unfair to white people was extremely or very important. Only 15 percent thought it was not important at all to do so. Supporters of other G.O.P. candidates, on average, were about half as concerned.

The data show that race is less important to white Americans’ sense of self than to nonwhites — more white people say being white is not at all important to their identity relative to the numbers who say so in other groups. But Mr. Trump’s continued efforts to remind white Americans of their group status may increase the number of white people who think of themselves through a racial lens. It is one of the ways that his campaign and presidency may reshape public opinion and politics.

He is capitalizing both on an existing sense of threat among white voters and the opportunity to shape the way whites — because of their group membership — think of themselves.

Does Australia’s values test have a future in Canada? Konrad Yakabuski

Yakabuski asks the valid question: could Australian dog whistle politics happen here?

To a certain extent, they already have: the use of the niqab and “barbaric cultural practices” tip line in the 2015 election, the Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney leadership campaigns. As he notes, survey questions highlight an underlying concern about immigrant values.

That being said, while we naturally enough see the similarities with Australia – immigration-based countries, large number of foreign-born voters, considerable diversity – we often fail to see some of the differences:

  • Indigenous/white settler dichotomy in contrast to the more complex Canadian Indigenous/French settler/British settler background and a history, albeit highly imperfect, of accommodation and compromise;
  • a political system that provides greater opening for far right extremist voices;
  • a political system that results in fewer visible minorities being elected than in Canada; and,
  • a generally harsher political culture.

So while we always have to guard against complacency, we also need to keep in mind that national elections are largely fought in the 905 and BC’s Lower Mainland, where new Canadian voters, mainly visible minority, form the majority or significant plurality of voters.

The Liberal success in these ridings (they won 30 out of the 33 ridings where visible minorities are the majority) suggest that values or identity-based wedge politics are a losing, not winning, strategy:

When Malcolm Turnbull staged an internal Liberal coup to replace an unpopular Tony Abbott as party leader and Australia’s prime minister in 2015, it was hailed as victory of the moderns and moderates over the ultraconservative ideologues and their nasty dog-whistling strategists.

Guess who’s blowing dog whistles now?

The plan Mr. Turnbull unveiled last month to screen immigrants for Australian values (sound familiar?) and make it harder to obtain Australian citizenship represents a crass U-turn for a Prime Minister who only a few years ago attacked a then-Labor government for seeking to cut the number of temporary foreign workers entering the country. “If you support skilled migration and a diverse society, you don’t ramp up the chauvinistic rhetoric,” he tweeted in 2013.

Now, it is Mr. Turnbull’s turn to target the so-called 457 visa, replacing it with a program that puts new restrictions on foreign workers. The Prime Minister says the immigration changes are all about “putting Australians first.” But they are really about exploiting largely, but not exclusively, working-class resentment toward visible minorities, especially if they’re Muslims.

“If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence … is an Australian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part, a very fundamental part, a very prominent part, of our process to be an Australian citizen?” Mr. Turnbull asked last month.

Well, for starters, because it demonstrates an astonishing degree of contempt for the very values that liberal democracies such as Australia purport to champion.

Is it really necessary to ask immigrants “under which circumstances is it permissible to cut female genitals” to convey the unacceptability of excision, which is already illegal? You can only answer yes if the real objective of such a measure is to pander to a substantial, but misguided, group of voters who seeks to alleviate their own insecurities by humiliating others.

You’d almost think this cockeyed plan was something cooked up by Sir Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist who may or may not have been behind the 2015 election promise by former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to set up a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline. But Sir Lynton – the knighthood was bestowed by former British prime minister David Cameron after the so-called Wizard of Oz helped him win the 2015 British election – is currently too busy exercising the political dark arts in aid of Tory PM Theresa May’s election bid.

Sir Lynton’s business partner, Mark Textor, however, happens to be Mr. Turnbull’s chief pollster. And what the polls are telling Mr. Turnbull is that white, working-class voters in Australia are increasingly turning sour on immigration. This is something of a paradox in a country in which 28 per cent of the population is foreign-born, compared with about 21 per cent in Canada, and that has long been held up as a model multicultural society.

The truth is that both the Liberals (who are actually conservatives) and the Labor Party now only pay lip service to multiculturalism. Both are seeking to scratch an itch among white working- and middle-class voters. Labor recently ran an ad in Queensland promising to “build Australia first, buy Australian first and employ Australians first.” All of the dozen or so workers in the ad were white.

Support for the current policy of turning back boats of asylum seekers, or detaining them on islands off the Australian coast, remains strong, even among Labor voters. Hence, the dilemma for Labor Leader Bill Shorten, trapped between his party’s white working-class base and the urban progressives and immigrant voters Labor needs to win elections.

Mr. Turnbull, meanwhile, is looking over his shoulder at a renewed threat from the far-right One Nation party and Mr. Abbott, who appears to be angling for his old job. He just gave a speech denouncing the “cultural cowardice” of the elites, including the folks at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and their “pervasive ambivalence verging on hostility to our country and its values.”

Does Australia represent the ghost of Canadian politics yet to come? Polls show Canadians from across the political spectrum really like Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s idea of screening immigrants for Canadian values. She’s sticking to her guns, no matter how many old Red Tory friends she loses.

Hey, if Australia can go that low, why can’t we?

Source: Does Australia’s values test have a future in Canada? – The Globe and Mail

Don’t be deaf to the threat of dog whistle politics: Collenette

Good piece by Penny Collenette, former senior PMO staffer under Jean Chrétien:

So what can we do to stop the spread of this inflammatory and destructive force? How do we halt the powerful right wing of Trump’s America from spilling over our borders with their vicious messages? There are a number of ways.

Canadian politicians who use coded messages of race-baiting or values testing should be “named and shamed” by political opponents. Already this is thankfully happening in the Conservative leadership race.

Strategists and pollsters who practise this type of dangerous communication must think twice before posing questions designed to whip up prejudice. Clients and investors may equally become concerned about provocative behaviour.

Civil society and individuals are watch dogs for truth and fairness. Don’t allow friends or colleagues to discriminate against others or to disseminate hateful information. Whether a message is in a tweet, during a conversation, or on Facebook, point out errors or bias.

Main stream media and social media equally have responsibility to verify facts and to report without bias.

And never forget the power of words. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard noted that “Words can hurt. Words can be knives slashing at people’s consciousness.” But words can also heal and soothe, especially when they are spoken with great sensitivity by a member of the community, which has just been devastated.

“What the Daesch is doing in the name of Islam is an affront to Islam, decency and humanity. What took place in Quebec was criminal and horrible. But the response of Canadians with love and solidarity represents Canada at its best and offers us pride and hope,” said Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan, a former journalist and Order of Canada recipient.

Let’s not let our communities and ourselves down. Let’s support each other with understanding and strength.

And while we are it, let’s throw those dog whistles in the garbage.

Source: Don’t be deaf to the threat of dog whistle politics: Collenette | Toronto Star

Here’s Why Democrats Must Not Abandon Identity Politics – The Daily Beast

Good piece by Craig Mills on identity politics:

Further, “white working class” seems to be the identity that matters when considering how Trump won. I hear continually this is the group we should concern ourselves with understanding to the exclusion of others. How absurd. I cannot recall any of those who exhort us to empathize with the white working class asking us to question their racist or sexist motives, as if this group’s decision-making occurs in economic isolation. Additionally, white supremacists who outright advocate for an all-white state supported Trump’s candidacy. If that is not identity focused, I’m not sure what is.

The reality is that both parties necessarily indulge identity to appeal to voters. Economic issues do not operate in a political vacuum, yet identity abandonment asks us to assume it does. Race and gender are outsized determinants that correlate closely with income, social outcomes, and yes, political power. It is unfair and unrealistic to ask holders of these demographic markers to suppress the very real roles they play in their political existences. Indeed, Bernie Sanders continues to struggle with black voters because he believes that if we address the economic component of what plagues many Americans, the rest will take care of itself.

The suggestion that subgroups abandon their identity to a larger goal is the ultimate identity grab: Fall in line, and we’ll sort it out when we win. Bull. Wrangling commitments out of politicians before an election is one of the few ways the electorate holds politicians accountable. Yet as Democrats seek short-term expediency, they are likely to dig themselves into a deeper hole. Such behavior is reminiscent of the 2010 midterm and 2012 general election. Then, many candidates distanced themselves from President Obama’s successes but still got buried politically. Voters notice such fright and flight. It signals lack of conviction in one’s policies and beliefs—hardly confidence inspiring to the marginal voter.

Finally, individuals care about a multitude of economic, political, social, environmental, and visionary issues that transcend individual identity. As proof, consider that Trump, who offended so many groups that comprise distinct political bases he attacked, outperformed Romney’s 2012 totals with blacks and Latinos and won the vote of white women. This should serve as an indicator that identity politics alone does not motivate voters but may be a factor. Voters of all persuasions want an acknowledgment of their concerns. Identity and economics need not be mutually exclusive in the political realm. To signal to large swaths of the public that their needs will have to wait until leaders solve the economic pieces risks alienating them and defection from the party.

Millennial, boomer, veteran, senior, female, black, Latino, gay, Muslim, white. These are but a few groups both parties court for a reason: Identity personalizes politics. Addressing income alone will not address badly needed police reform, education disparities, or a woman’s access to reproductive services. Neither will it address religious freedoms or climate change. Nor will it address the institutional structures that make dismantling barriers to fairness difficult. National parties and politics are messy because of the multiple interests—identities—they encompass. Until and unless we move to a multiparty political system, we must focus on speaking to those identities.

The world does not come with equality; it is something we must work to achieve. If we engage exclusively in economic politics and desert identity liberalism, we will not accomplish this. If the identities of the right matter, however, so do mine.

A short history of scapegoating Muslims in Quebec: Martin Patriquin

caq-adGood piece by Patriquin:

We are midway through Quebec’s election cycle, and predicable things are happening. Opposition parties begin to stake out positions on key issues, the importance of which are no doubt polled, focused grouped and otherwise scientifically developed. The most recent efforts of the Coalition Avenir Québec, the province’s second opposition party, can be seen in the charming advertisement above.

“Couillard and Lisée,” it reads, referring to Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard and Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée, “[are] in favour of the chador for teachers in our schools.”

The ad has a stunned and/or befuddled-looking Couillard and Lisée staring at a woman wearing the Muslim garb. The message, in case it hasn’t yet hit you over the head, is that should you vote for either the Liberals or the PQ, your children will be put under the spell of a cadre of evil-looking Muslim women. Vote CAQ, and teachers will remain uncovered (and probably lily white, for that matter.)

It’s gross stuff, of course. It’s also crafty as hell. Both the PQ and the governing Liberals have said that anyone working for the state must do so with their faces uncovered “for security or identification reasons”, as a proposed Liberal law states. Because the chador wearer’s face remains uncovered, it wouldn’t fall under this stipulation. Ergo, so the intentionally blinkered CAQ reasoning goes, the Liberals (and the PQ, which will likely support the proposed law) much be in favour of the chador.

As gross as it is, the most recent CAQ gambit is hardly the first time a party has attempted to make political hay on the backs of Muslim women and other religious minorities. Who can forget this gem, from 2013?

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This was the so-called charter of Quebec values, the Parti Québécois’s electoral gambit leading up to the 2014 election. In many ways it is more offensive than the CAQ advertisement. The above image was part of a $2-million ad campaign for a bill introduced by an actual minister that would have been made law had the PQ won the 2014 election. The PQ didn’t win, but it wasn’t for lack of scraping the bottom of the barrel.

During the campaign, the party trotted out Janette Bertrand, a favoured vedette of the very Baby Boomers the PQ wished to recruit, to press flesh and insult minorities. Muslim doctors, she opined, allowed women to “die faster.” Swarthy men had taken over her swimming pool for religious reasons and kicked her out, depriving her of her ability to do aqua-gym exercises. “That’s why we need the charter,” she said. (I’m not making this up.)

Politics, not a sense of shame, caused the PQ to back away from the charter. It has just announced its “resolute, balanced and responsible approach” to Quebec identity that will see the party “build a better dialogue between its parliamentary wing and cultural communities.”

Yet PQ leader Lisée himself has hardly gone all Kumbaya—he’s just changed opinions once again. In 2013, taking great umbrage in something I wrote, Lisée wrote that the PQ’s charter could have flowed from the pen of Thomas Jefferson. Less than a year and one bruising electoral loss later, Lisée said he wouldn’t have supported the charter after all. About two months ago, he said that burqas must be banned “before a jihadist uses one to hide his movements.” Today, he reneged on the comment, saying it was wasn’t his best line. Translation: Lisée was all for scapegoating religious minorities before he was against it—and he may well be for it again, depending on how things go.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this pungent example of immigrant-baiting in Quebec.

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This is an election sign from the 2008 campaign of the ADQ, the precursor to the CAQ. “Decrease of the French language in Montreal,” it reads. “The track record of the PQ and Liberals: a 22 per cent increase in immigration. The ADQ’s solution: a natalist political plan and a freeze of immigration levels.”

By equating the supposed loss of French in Montreal with the increase in immigration, we have a major political party, the province’s official opposition at the time, scapegoating immigrants not for how they may dress but for what tumbles out of their mouths.

At the time, the PQ denounced the campaign, calling it worthy of France’s hard right Front National. Five years later, the PQ itself introduced the charter—supported by none other than Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

Chutzpah is a great word.

Erna Paris: Canada is not immune to the most dangerous tactic in politics

Like Michelle Gagnon, I think Erna Paris overstates the risk.

Let us also not forget that the Conservatives lost decisively in the 33 visible majority ridings (GTA and BC’s Lower Mainland mainly), only winning two ridings to the Liberals 30 (the NDP won one), the overall popular vote for all of these ridings 31 percent compared to 52 percent for the Liberals (see my analysis 2015 Election – Visible Minority MPs Analytical Note).

One cannot win an election in Canada without being successful in these and other ridings with large numbers of visible minorities.

So yes, while the risks are always present, and one can never take things for granted, the political realities temper these as the Conservatives found out to their cost:

There’s a new narrative at play in post-election Canada. The past was dim, but the future is bright. We were worn down after a decade of authoritarian one-man rule and we voted for sunny change.

We also defied the worst of identity politics, we tell ourselves. We collectively rejected Stephen Harper’s opportunistic attacks on vulnerable Muslim women whose religion requires them to cover their face in the public square. “We’re back!” as Justin Trudeau told us.

I hope so. We’ll know soon enough.

But let’s not gloss over how close we came to the sort of majority-minority hostilities that have disrupted other diverse societies, with dangerous results. When the prime minister himself targeted a minority, creating “us” and “them” distinctions over who was, or was not, “Canadian”; when he reinforced these divisions by calling for a snitch line to report “barbaric cultural practices,” we were immediately catapulted into a new social space. In spite of longstanding legal protections for religious practices and laws that penalize defined criminal acts, more than 80 per cent of Canadians sided with Harper. Within days, a woman wearing a niqab was physically assaulted in Toronto. In Montreal, a pregnant woman was pushed to the ground. Social media exploded with anti-Muslim hatred.

None of this should have come as a surprise. I’ve studied the breakdown of multicultural societies, both past and present, and asked myself whether it is possible to pinpoint the steps along the way. And I’ve concluded that, allowing for small differences, the process is always the same. It starts with propaganda – with language purposely designed to marginalize a minority – and it is usually initiated by a respected leader who’s seeking to enhance his power. The shift from peaceful cohabitation into violence can happen quickly. Fortunately, in our case, the election results nipped the movement in the bud.

Source: Erna Paris: Canada is not immune to the most dangerous tactic in politics | Ottawa Citizen

For Muslim women, Liberal victory a rejection of divisive politics

No surprises here:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was not subtle about his use of cultural differences as a trigger for fear during the election campaign. His government pressed its case against a Muslim woman fighting to wear her niqab during her citizenship ceremony — and lost. It unveiled a “barbaric cultural practices” tipline for Canadians to report on their neighbours.

He made a debating point of his position that he’d never tell his daughter to cover her face, a moot point unless she converts to Islam. For Muslim-Canadian women the fact that those tactics backfired in the end is a validation of a particular view of Canada.

For Alia Hogben, the executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, it shows that Canadians “are rejecting all the divisive and racist and hate mongering that the Conservatives were doing and they’re showing who we really are. It gives me a huge amount of hope.”

Hogben said that for almost every single Muslim, Harper’s vocal opposition to Muslim women wearing the niqab at citizenship ceremonies as the case of Zunera Niqab, who had taken the government to court over the issue, made its way successfully through then legal process during the campaign, was a source of anxiety.

“During that period it was nerve wracking, depressing and discouraging,” she said.

Hogben said she was worried about these new values that were being propounded by the Conservatives.

“We couldn’t tell if Canadians would lean that way or not and now it’s a huge amount of relief that its been rejected,” she said.

“We’re not saying one party is any better than another, but we’re hoping that they will learn from what went on during the election and the kind of feelings that aroused for and against a group of people and that they will learn from that and make everybody welcomed back into the family of Canadians rather than dividing us.”

In a powerful speech to a crowded room of cheering supporters in Montreal, prime minister designate Justin Trudeau said a woman wearing a hijab told him she would vote for him because she wants to make sure that her little girl has the right to make her own choices in life.

“Have faith in your fellow citizens my friends, they are kind and generous. They are open minded and optimistic and they know in their heart of hearts that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” said Trudeau.

Liberal strategist at Crestview Strategy Group, Rob Silver, said there’s no room in Canada for divisive and mean politics.

“I think if anything the niqab issue backfired on Stephen Harper and I think that kind of divisive negative nasty politics will not be seen in Canada for a long time.”

Samer Majzoub, the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, says by electing Trudeau, Canadians have sent a very strong message to politicians who have campaigned on “hatred and discrimination.”

“They have harvested what they have planted and lost and [were] defeated,” said Majzoub.

“The fact is that Canadians have followed what Canadians believe in—harmony, unity, human rights, that’s why we feel at ease on the subject,” he said.

For Muslim women, Liberal victory a rejection of divisive politics (paywall)

How Tories win immigrant votes using anti-immigrant messages: Doug Saunders

Doug Saunders, always worth reading, flags the longer-term risks of the Conservative approach, drawing on the analysis of Peter Loewen (see earlier post Support for Conservatives’ niqab ban is deep and wide, even among immigrants). We will, of course, see the extent to which the strategy works on election day:

The second is that after accomplishing this, Mr. Harper’s party has run a 2015 campaign built on ethnic and religious distrust, fear and divisiveness. By turning a non-existent issue – involving a miniscule subgroup, women who wear the niqab – into a major campaign issue, and by tying immigration and terrorism policies together rhetorically, the Conservatives have stoked anti-immigrant sentiments and religious intolerance.

That leads to the third surprise: This does not appear to have cost the Conservatives support among immigrants and members of most minorities.

I checked this with Peter Loewen, a specialist in public-opinion analytics at the University of Toronto’s department of political science. He is one of the operators of localparliament.ca, an online portal that tracks the voting intentions of 11,442 eligible and likely voters across Canada. While the survey’s big-picture forecasts are subject to the distortions and biases of online polling (and use algorithms to correct for these), it shines at providing a uniquely large-sample, daily breakdown of intention by immigration status.

It shows that, as of Wednesday, non-immigrant Canadians have a predicted likelihood of voting Conservative of 27 per cent, while foreign-born Canadians have a likelihood of 34 per cent – a statistically significant 7-point difference recorded well after the Tories’ tilt toward ugly ethno-politics.

More significantly, Dr. Loewen told me, “there is no evidence that immigrants are becoming less likely to vote Tory as the campaign goes on. In fact, if anything, the opposite appears true.”

By turning sharply toward anti-immigrant messaging, the Conservatives didn’t lose, and might even have gained, support among immigrants. What gives?

It shows that the politics of intolerance, as well as the more benign social and economic appeals to small-c conservatism, are at least as likely to appeal to minority immigrants as they are to “white” Canadians. On one level, realizing this represents a sort of political maturity – better to have conservative parties fighting for minority votes than the situation in the United States or France, where the right-wing parties still rely on the monolithic intolerance of the white majority.

David Cameron, Britain’s Tory Prime Minister, ran a re-election campaign this year larded with tough messages about detaining and sending back immigrants; he not only won a majority but also doubled his party’s support among ethnic minorities, attracting a million visible-minority Britons.

On a more extreme level, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s xenophobic and often outright racist rhetoric made him the preferred candidate for lower-income immigrant voters; his faction still controls the city’s most minority- and immigrant-heavy wards.

Mr. Harper has probably lost the Muslim vote, but that’s only 3 per cent of Canadians. He and his ethnic-outreach agent, Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, are evidently making a calculated bid to make gains among Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian diasporas by playing on their atavistic fears of their Muslim neighbours.

This is a dangerous game.

Research has shown that Canadians do not bring the ethno-political divisions of their home countries with them: Indo-Canadian Muslims prefer to live among Indo-Canadian Hindus and Sikhs rather than Muslims from other backgrounds, for example. Intermarriage rates are high.

But diversity does not mean that everyone trusts everyone else. My Trinidadian neighbours have sour things to say about Jamaicans, and the Malaysian guy up the street says unprintable things about the local Eritreans. The schisms of the Indian subcontinent – Hindu, Sikh and Muslim; Sinhalese and Tamil; Sunni and Shia; Deobandi and Barelvi – are woven into many family histories. The schisms of the Middle East are woven into others. But in Canada’s system of democratic pluralism, those private divisions are kept in the background, subsumed under a larger values of mutual respect, cooperation and equal treatment. Playing on these histories for electoral gain goes against Canada’s basic values.

Building a diverse and inclusive conservative movement ought to have been a historic accomplishment. But by using intolerance to fuel sectarian mistrust, Mr. Harper is damaging that legacy.

Source: How Tories win immigrant votes using anti-immigrant messages – The Globe and Mail

This election will be won on citizenship issues. To our shame – Gilmore

Scott Gilmore on the identity politics of citizenship and the niqab:

You can be sure that Immigration Minister Chris Alexander does not actually think a new tip line is an effective safeguard to prevent honour killings. Similarly, no one in Harper’s circle genuinely believes that two women in niqabs pose any threat to our social fabric, nor our security. Likewise, Harper doesn’t really worry that accepting 10,000 refugees (1/30th of one per cent of our population) over the course of two months, versus two years, will harm our country in any way. And his security experts have never suggested that the most expedient additional measure to safeguard Canadians from terrorist attacks is to strip a dozen criminals of their citizenship.

What the Conservatives do believe, however, is that encouraging one group of Canadians to fear another group of Canadians is an exceptionally effective way to get out the vote. When written so bluntly, it sounds preposterous. But that’s what identity politics is: a conscious effort to divide the body politic, and set it against itself. In this election, the CPC politicians have talked about citizenship almost constantly and, every time, it involved Muslim Canadians. Every time, it was so they could pit Canadians against Canadians.

The free-trade election of 1988 settled the question: “Are Canadians brave enough to enter the global economy?” The citizenship election of 2015 will decide if Canadians are brave enough to trust each other in the face of fear-mongering and bigot-baiting.

Fifty years in Canada, and now I feel like a second-class citizen: Sheema Khan

Speaks for itself:

“Too broken to write,” I told my editor, after the onslaught of Conservative announcements. The niqab was condemned. Citizenship was revoked for convicted terrorists with dual citizenship. Canadians were reminded of “barbaric cultural practices,” and the federal government’s preference for mainly non-Muslim Syrian refugees was reiterated. Make no mistake: This divisive strategy is meant to prey upon fear and prejudice.

Last May, I wrote that Canadian Muslims “are the low-hanging fruit in the politics of fear. Omar Khadr is exhibit A; Zunera Ishaq is exhibit B. With an October election, it won’t be surprising to see political machinations at our expense.” Yet the sheer brazenness of the Conservatives leaves one speechless; a 2.0 version of Quebec’s “charter of values” is being used to win votes on the backs of a vulnerable minority. The government’s open hostility has given licence to bigots to vent xenophobia. A pregnant Muslim woman is assaulted in Montreal. A niqab-wearing woman is attacked while shopping with her daughters in Toronto. Mosques are taking precautions. Identifiable Muslim women feel a little less safe, and Muslim youth face difficult questions about identity and acceptance.

Don’t expect Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to call for calm; this cynical strategy seems to be working. What does this say about us, and our commitment to a just society?

December will mark 50 years since I arrived from India as a toddler. In Montreal, I experienced the fear of terrorism during the 1970 FLQ crisis and horror after the massacre of 14 women one dark December evening in 1989. My first voting experience was momentous, for I helped to keep the country together in the 1980 Quebec referendum. I did the same during the nail-biter of 1995. Along the way, I never felt any discrimination, any sense of being second-class.

Quebec and Canada allowed me to thrive. I remember the pride I felt when my Harvard University professors told me that Canadian graduate students were the best-prepared – a testament to our excellent undergraduate institutions. And the love I felt for my compatriots during the massive 1995 pro-Canada rally in Montreal. It reminded me of the hajj – a sea of individuals from near and far, united in their love for a noble ideal. Differences melted into a shared vision of the future.

However, the mood changed in Quebec after then-premier Jacques Parizeau’s “money and the ethnic vote” comment the night of the 1995 referendum. For the first time, I was told to “go back home,” while walking my eight-month-old daughter in a stroller. When I moved to Ottawa, a man, proudly brandishing his Canadian Legion jacket, told me the same. Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Although there were a few more incidents, I never feared for myself or my children. On the contrary – friends, neighbours and complete strangers renewed my faith in the basic decency of Canadians.

Now, things feel different. I never imagined that the federal government would use its hefty weight to vilify Muslims. Never in 50 years have I felt so vulnerable. For the first time, I wonder if my children will have the opportunity to thrive as I did. One is a budding environmental scientist; one has entrepreneurial goals; the youngest dreams of playing soccer alongside Kadeisha Buchanan. But the Conservative message is: You are Muslim, you are the “other,” you can’t be trusted and you will never belong.

Thankfully, other political leaders have stepped up; Justin Trudeau, Tom Mulcair, Elizabeth May, the Quebec legislature, among others, have denounced the politics of fear, and reiterated the Canadian value of inclusion. We need more people to stand together against all forms of bigotry, whether it’s against Muslims today, or aboriginals every day.

By all means, let’s respectfully discuss our differences, while weaving a tapestry of shared experiences toward a more inclusive country. Our hearts, like the land, are wide enough to mend broken spirits. As the late NDP leader Jack Layton reminded us so eloquently: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Source: Fifty years in Canada, and now I feel like a second-class citizen – The Globe and Mail