Stephen Harper leaves divisive legacy at home as he eyes global business – The Globe and Mail

Good comments on new Canadian voters:

They can blame him [Harper] for other things, too. His scorched earth election strategy drove suburban immigrant voters out of the Conservative coalition, leaving the party weakened in the all-important ridings of Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver. The niqab debate. Barbaric cultural practices. Worst of all, according to senior Conservatives, the law to strip dual citizens who commit certain crimes of their citizenship. That one killed them at the door in the 905.

Whoever Mr. Harper was trying to win over with these toxic policies during the 2015 election campaign, the price he paid in immigrant votes and the votes of those who welcome immigrants was high. The new leader will have a long row to hoe to win them back.

Source: Stephen Harper leaves divisive legacy at home as he eyes global business – The Globe and Mail

Komagatu Maru Apology

This has been a long-standing issue for many in the Indo-Canadian community, particularly Sikh Canadians. Reading the announcement, reminded me of the previous attempt by former Prime Minister Harper to do so at an Indo-Canadian community picnic on 3 August 2008.

It was a “drive-by” apology, to use my irreverent words, given that the PM and his party had to beat a hasty retreat after one activist seizing the mike and denouncing the fact that it was not delivered in Parliament. See Harper apologizes in B.C. for 1914 Komagata Maru incident, CBC, 3 August 2008.

My takeaway from that incident (I was present) was that any apology, if made, should be done in the House of Commons (as was the case for Japanese wartime internment, the Chinese head tax and residential school abuse). Any other approach made the community being apologized to feel second-rate, as was the case with Italian Canadian wartime restrictions (former PM Mulroney delivered an apology at a dinner) or the above case of the Komagata Maru).

So while there will be predictable debate about whether an apology is warranted, the House is the appropriate forum.

An Indo-Canadian friend of mine reminded me that neither the Government of India or Britain have ever apologized for opening fire on the ship and killing passengers.

Will be interesting to see if Italian Canadians continue to press for a formal House apology.

Text of the PM press release:

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced that on May 18, 2016, he will make a formal apology in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident.

This year will mark the 102nd anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident, where 376 passengers of mostly Sikh descent arrived in Vancouver and were refused entry into Canada due to the discriminatory laws of the time.

The Prime Minister made the announcement at Vaisakhi on the Hill concluding a three day religious ceremony, where Sikh scriptures were read continuously to commemorate Vaisakhi.

Quotes

“As a nation, we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day.  We should not – and we will not.”
– Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“An apology made in the House of Commons will not erase the pain and suffering of those who lived through that shameful experience.  But an apology is not only the appropriate action to take, it’s the right action to take, and the House is the appropriate place for it to happen.”
– Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

And the full remarks of the PM at the Vaisakhi ceremony on the Hill:

This year will mark the 102nd anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident where 376 passengers of mostly Sikh descent arrived in Vancouver and were refused entry to Canada due to the discriminatory laws of the time. The passengers of the Komagata Maru like millions of immigrants to Canada since were seeking refuge and better lives for their families. With so much to contribute to their new home, they chose Canada and we failed them utterly. As a nation, we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day. We should not and we will not. That is why next month, on May 18, I will stand in the House of Commons and offer a full apology for the Komagata Maru incident.

An apology made in the House of Commons will not erase the pain and suffering of those who lives through that shameful experience, but an apology is not only the appropriate action to take, it’s the right action to take and the House is the appropriate place for it to happen. It was in the House of Commons that the laws that prevented the passengers from disembarking were first passed and so it’s fitting that the government should apologize there on behalf of all Canadians. It’s what the victims of the Komagata Maru incident deserve and we owe them nothing less.

Just as we look back and acknowledge where we’re failed, so too do we need to celebrate the remarkable success of the Sikh community here in Canada and Vaisakhi is the perfect opportunity to do just that. April is a special month, not only for Sikhs but for all Canadians. It marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Charter of rights and freedoms which ensures that no Canadian needs to make the choice between their religion and activities in their day-to-day lives. The charter ensures that the five Ks are protected. As Canadian Sikhs gather with their loved ones to mark the creation of the Khalsa, it’s a chance to reflect on shared values and celebrate the successes of the past year.

What Justin Trudeau said today about the Komagata Maru incident

ICYMI: How Ann Coulter inspired Donald Trump

Interesting little nugget connected to Canadian politics, the reference in the last para to Peter Brimelow, a seminal influence on the Reform party and Stephen Harper, according to William Johnson and Paul Wells.

Helps explain some of the anti-Muslim rhetoric during the last campaign:

Being a pundit is a show business occupation, and Coulter, like many show business stars, seemed to have been supplanted by younger models. She had become famous in the cable TV world of the 1990s as a good-looking blond lawyer willing to say the most outrageous things about liberals, especially Bill Clinton. As this kind of put-down became more common, and channels like Fox News put conservative blond women all over television, her uniqueness seemed to fade and her sales with it: in 2011, the Washington Post reported weak sales for her book Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America.

¡Adios, America! changed that, debuting at No. 2 on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list and reinventing Coulter’s image. The younger pundits who were eclipsing her have been thrown for a loop by Trump’s rise—Glenn Beck contributed to National Review’s “Against Trump” issue last month—and left Coulter as the voice of pro-Trump punditry. When Trump walked out on a Fox News Republican debate, Coulter, writing in the Hollywood Reporter this week, trashed Fox as “trivial and self-important” and praised Trump as the only candidate who “takes principled stands.” Trump fans can count on her to defend their idol against mainstream conservatism.

If Trump is pulling Coulter back into the limelight, she might end up pulling a lot of other people in with her. The Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out that Coulter “routinely cites white nationalists” in ¡Adios, America! In an interview with Chronicles magazine, she stated that one of her key inspirations for writing the book was Alien Nation author Peter Brimelow, who recently called for the expulsion of Muslims from the U.S. and declared “whites are America.” A year ago, such associations seemed like a bad move for a mainstream conservative. But, thanks to Donald Trump, Ann Coulter might be the head of the new conservative mainstream.

Source: How Ann Coulter inspired Donald Trump

Canada, the country that nationalism side-swiped: Salutin | Toronto Star

Salutin on the perverse, counter-intuitive nature of Canadian nationalism:

Here’s where it starts to get paradoxical. Stephen Harper, during his reign, tried to become the voice of Canadian nationalism in the traditional, exclusivist sense. He promoted militarism, including symbols like the Highway of Heroes, and shopworn imperial imagery like the Royal Family. He promoted undercurrents of xenophobia, nativism and racism in his policies toward immigrants and especially refugees, who were despicably treated. These became overcurrents during the election, with his attacks on Muslim headgear, the “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line and revocable citizenship.

What’s fascinating is that Justin Trudeau didn’t oppose him by declaring he was anti-nationalist, as you’d have to in, say, Serbia or Hungary. He fought back as a Canadian nationalist, defining it in terms of tolerance or even, the glory of diversity — a sharp rebuttal to most contemporary nationalism. It also had weird echoes. Justin’s dad, Pierre, rejected Quebec nationalism as parochial but embraced Canadian nationalism as a way to fight it. When he ran against Tory leader Joe Clark in 1979, Trudeau père scorned Clark’s notion that Canada was just a “community of communities,” for being wishy-washy and contentless.

Yet that’s essentially what his son endorsed. Now picture Harper: beaten not only by the son of his most reviled Canadian predecessor; but by the son’s embrace of the vision of Harper’s most loathed Conservative antecedent, Joe Clark. It’s beyond Shakespearean. Who says we don’t have a colourful history?

If we’d been more successful in creating a robust, conventional Canadian nationalism, who knows — the country mightn’t have as handily beaten back the nasty nativism cultivated by Harper. It could have provided unintended grist for his mill. So the real strength of Canadian nationalism might turn out to be its relative weakness. We’re the land that nationalism side-swiped. Lucky us.

In his book, Benedict Anderson quoted Walter Benjamin’s passage on the angel of history — based on a Paul Klee print. The angel stands looking backward sadly as history’s failures and disasters pile up at his feet. So, as history’s wind blows him into the future, he can’t see, behind him, the progress that may be about to arrive. You could call it, back to the future, in a literal sense.

Prime Minister’s Office ordered halt to refugee processing: Globe article and response

Following this Globe story, PM Harper stated that:

… when it comes to admitting refugees, his government ensures the selection of the most vulnerable people while keeping the country safe and secure.

“The audit we asked for earlier this year was to ensure that these policy objectives are being met. Political staff are never involved in approving refugee applications,” Harper said. “Such decisions are made by officials in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.”

No PMO vetting of refugees, say Conservatives

But it appears that it was not prompted by security:

Sources tell CTV News that a temporary halt to the processing of some Syrian refugees was ordered earlier this year to make sure the types favoured by the Prime Minister’s Office were being prioritized.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration insiders told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that PMO staff went through the files to ensure that persecuted religious minorities with established communities already in Canada — ones that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper could court for votes — were being accepted. Insiders say PMO actively discouraged the department from accepting applications from Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Private applications, which are often from church groups, were allowed to continue while the rest were on hold.

Should this be true, it is highly inappropriate both in substance (taking identity and ‘shopping for votes’ politics to a new level) and in process (PMO directed rather than PCO directed), not to mention morally wrong given the impact on refugees and the delays incurred.

During my time at PCO (1998-2000), when PMO had concerns about handling of files, PCO would play a strong policy coordination (and sometimes direction) to departments in close coordination with PMO. But the bureaucratic chain of command was respected.

This indicates a lack of confidence of CIC (and Minister Alexander’s ability to direct the department) to implement preferences for more vulnerable ethnic groups. Globe article that started it all below:

The Prime Minister’s Office directed Canadian immigration officials to stop processing one of the most vulnerable classes of Syrian refugees this spring and declared that all UN-referred refugees would require approval from the Prime Minister, a decision that halted a critical aspect of Canada’s response to a global crisis.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the Prime Minister intervened in a file normally handled by the Citizenship and Immigration department in the months before dramatic images of a dead toddler brought the refugee crisis to the fore. The processing stop, which was not disclosed to the public, was in place for at least several weeks. It is unclear when it was lifted. At the same time, an audit was ordered of all Syrian refugees referred by the United Nations in 2014 and 2015.

The Prime Minister’s Office asked Citizenship and Immigration for the files of some Syrian refugees so they could be vetted by the PMO – potentially placing political staff with little training in refugee matters in the middle of an already complex process.

PMO staff could have also had access to files that are considered protected, because they contain personal information, including a refugee’s health history and narrative of escape, raising questions about the privacy and security of that information and the basis on which it was being reviewed.

As a result of the halt, and the additional layers of scrutiny, families that had fled Syria and were judged by the United Nations refugee agency to be in need of resettlement had to wait longer to find refuge in Canada. It also meant there were fewer cases of UN-referred Syrians approved and ready for sponsorship when the public came forward in large numbers after the drowning death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi in August.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not directly respond to a request for comment, nor did it confirm Stephen Harper’s involvement.

A spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, however, said the government was concerned about the integrity of the system and ensuring that security was not compromised in any way.

“The processing of Syrian Government Assisted Refugees resumed only after there was confidence that our procedures were adequate to identify those vulnerable persons in most need of protection while screening out threats to Canada,” said Chris Day, spokesman for Mr. Alexander. He noted that processing of privately sponsored refugees, who are not referred by the UN but by their Canadian sponsors and who make up a growing portion of Canada’s refugees, continued throughout this period.

Critics have long complained about the centralization of decision-making in the PMO – and it would be unusual for a prime minister to sign off on refugee files that have already been vetted by the UN refugee agency, Canadian visa officials and in a small minority of cases by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency.

Source: Prime Minister’s Office ordered halt to refugee processing – The Globe and Mail

Stephen Harper writes open letter to Canada’s ‘world-class public service’ in order to correct ‘misinformation’ | National Post

This is funny and is likely not targeted at public service voters:

After publicly taking swipes on the campaign trail at bureaucrats in Ottawa, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives say they are the party to best protect the interests of federal public servants and are proud of Canada’s “world-class public service.”

Harper released an open letter Thursday to Canada’s public service that thanks them for their hard work on implementing government policies and cutting red tape, but also tries to correct “misinformation” he says is being spread by opposition parties and unions about the government’s plans on sick leave and pensions.

With Conservatives facing tough challenges in a number of Ottawa-area constituencies – including John Baird’s former riding of Ottawa West-Nepean – the Tories put on a full-court press Thursday to try to solidify the support of voters in the National Capital Region and combat recent announcements from the NDP and Liberals about their commitments to the public service.

Unfortunately, in the current election context, misleading statements are being made about certain issues that matter to you and your families, including sick leave and pension entitlements

Senior Ottawa Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, flanked by several Ottawa-area Conservative candidates, Thursday unveiled Harper’s letter to the public service and try to reassure bureaucrats that they have nothing to fear should the Conservatives win another mandate.

Harper, in his two-page letter, lauded the work of federal bureaucrats in Ottawa and elsewhere.

“Canadians are well-served by our world-class public service, and I have seen this first-hand as Prime Minister. During our time in Government, we have worked with you to ensure your efforts are focused on the things that matter most to Canadians, and to create a healthier workplace where good work is recognized, red tape is removed, and benefits meet real needs,” Harper says in the open letter.

“Unfortunately, in the current election context, misleading statements are being made about certain issues that matter to you and your families, including sick leave and pension entitlements.”

Source: Stephen Harper writes open letter to Canada’s ‘world-class public service’ in order to correct ‘misinformation’ | National Post

Full text of the letter: Open letter 2[1]

Harper says only bogus refugees are denied health care. He’s wrong.

Good piece in Macleans:

Prime Minister Harper was indignant: “We have not taken away health care from immigrants and refugees. On the contrary, the only time we’ve removed it is where we had clearly bogus refugees who have been refused and turned down. We do not offer them a better health care plan than the ordinary Canadian can receive. That is not something that new and existing and old-stock Canadians agree with.”

Harper’s reference to “old-stock Canadians” got lots of attention. But what’s far more shocking, say refugee experts, is his stony denial of the truth: that the Conservative government has diminished the medical insurance provided to most refugees in Canada—tens of thousands of them, in fact.

As Maclean’s recently reported, the Conservative government made cuts to the Interim Federal Health (IFH) program in 2012 that drastically reduced the medical insurance provided to refugees who are privately sponsored or who make a refugee claim upon arriving in Canada. The two groups represent 59,285 of the refugees who came to Canada between 2012 and 2014, show the latest data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The cuts also affect more than 7,000 “legacy claimants” who arrived before December 2012 and are awaiting their claim hearing, according to the Canadian Council for Refugees.

These groups of refugees no longer have health insurance for prescription medications, and “supplemental” coverage for services such as prosthetics, physiotherapy and counselling, as well as emergency dental and vision care. (Pregnant women and children have been granted temporary coverage for medications, until the federal Court of Appeal decides later this year whether the cuts should be reversed. Children also receive supplemental coverage.)

The only group not affected by the IFH cuts is government-assisted refugees, of which 18,646 were resettled in Canada between 2012 and 2014. They receive the same health insurance as the lowest-income Canadians.

“They’ve repeatedly tried to sell the cuts to the public by saying they are only taking away gold-plated health care from bogus refugees,” says Dr. Hasan Sheikh, an Ottawa physician and member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, of the Conservative government. “That is absolutely not true.”
Harper’s reference to “bogus claimants” during the debate is particularly noteworthy—and cringe-worthy, say refugee advocates. It’s a term that’s been used by Harper, as well as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, and his predecessor Jason Kenney, many times since 2012, as well as by other Conservative MPs during debates in the House of Commons.

Source: Harper says only bogus refugees are denied health care. He’s wrong.

ICYMI: Stephen Harper pledges $10M to research terrorism, radicalization

Good investment and one that any government should maintain and possibly strengthen:

On the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is committing new money to research terrorism and radicalization.

Harper said Friday that a Tory government would provide $10 million over five years to the Kanishka Project, an initiative — established in 2011 and named in recognition of the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 331 people — to better understand radicalization and effective ways to prevent attacks.

The Kanishka Project is administered through Public Safety Canada and has funded research by academics both in Canada and abroad. For example, in October 2014 the government put out a call soliciting research on how jihadists use the internet, while in July it was announced that the project would provide $170,000 over two years to an Australian sociologist studying why some Canadians convert to Islam.

Source: Stephen Harper pledges $10M to research terrorism, radicalization – Politics – CBC News

Stephen Harper won’t allow ‘permanent underclass’ of temporary foreign workers

Welcome reaffirmation of the value of immigration, leading to citizenship, rather than more temporary status.

However, a bit ironic, given that some of the changes to the citizenship program are leading to a greater share of some visible minority groups who are likely to remain permanent residents, unable to attain citizenship with the full panoply of rights that entails.

Harper said his government wants to make sure that immigrants were not filling jobs that Canadians could do.

“Just as importantly, we’re making sure that when people come to this country to work and to work long-term, they have the ability to move towards being permanent citizens of this country,” he said.

“This country is not going to have a policy, as long as I’m prime minister, where we will have a permanent underclass of … people who are so-called temporary, but here forever, with no rights of citizenship and no rights of mobility.

“That is not the Canadian way we do immigration. So we’re going to make sure that program does not drift in that direction,” he said.

Stephen Harper won’t allow ‘permanent underclass’ of temporary foreign workers – Politics – CBC News.

PM Harper’s ‘dangerous’ comments on Muslims show lack of understanding on culture, says Taylor

Hard to disagree with Charles Taylor’s assessment:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comments on the niqab are “very dangerous” and could lead to stigmatization and even radicalization, one of Canada’s most renowned political thinkers said Saturday.

Speaking to a packed room at the Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit in Ottawa Saturday morning, McGill University philosopher Charles Taylor said the prime minister’s comments on the niqab as coming from an anti-feminist culture conflates Muslim dress with the threat of terrorism and jihadism, which stigmatizes the entire Muslim population and creates a rupture in Canadian society.

“This kind of stigmatization is exactly what we have to avoid,” Prof. Taylor told reporters following his address.

The Prime Minister has been “tone deaf” in his comments about Muslims, he said, which demonstrates a lack of understanding of the culture he’s discussing, though he also said electoral considerations likely figure in the approach.

“Ask yourself what are the recruiters of Islamic State saying? They’re saying, ‘Look, they despise you. They think that you’re foreign, you’re dangerous, you’re not accepted here so why don’t you come to them?’” he told reporters.

“The more you make it sound like that, the more you’re helping them. It’s strange that people don’t see that.”

PM Harper’s ‘dangerous’ comments on Muslims show lack of understanding on culture, says Taylor | hilltimes.com.