Trudeau’s choices in the defence of Quebec’s religious symbols
Quebec’s decision to legislate against the wearing of religious symbols by public sector employees was immediately met with a court challenge. However, long before the bill was passed, it had been a centrepiece of Quebec political discussion.
The recent lawsuit contends that the bill’s passage is unconstitutional, likely to cause “irreparable harm to religious minorities.” According to the parties opposing the bill, attempts to dictate that provincial workers cannot wear religious garb effectively “excludes visibly religious individuals from participating in a range of important public institutions.”
By now, most Canadians’ voting intentions are settled. It’s late in the day to be reminding people of why they should—or shouldn’t—consider a party or its leader worthy of their vote. Nevertheless, since no other commentator has brought the issue up, I want to remind readers of the Trudeau government’s shameful neglect of the Yazidi people in their hour of greatest need.
The genocide of the Yazidis, an ancient, peaceful, monotheistic people who have lived in Iraq and Syria since time immemorial, fell victim to ISIL in a terror campaign that lasted from 2014-17. In Aug and Dec 2014, the systematic rapes of 7,000 Yazidi women were reported by Human rights Watch and Amnesty International, and in October, 2014, the UN reported that 5,000 Yazidi men had been executed—a campaign carried out in a style perfected in Eastern Europe’s “Bloodlands” by the Nazis, now called “The Holocaust by Bullets.” So there was no question about the veracity of the facts. Yet on June 14, 2016, Justin Trudeau said, “We do not feel that politicians should be weighing in on this first and foremost.”
At the height of the horrors in 2016, what was happening was condemned as a genocide by many official entities—by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the U.S. House of representatives, the UK House of Commons and by a Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.
Yet in June 2016, the Liberals voted against a Conservative-sponsored motion in the House of Commons that sought to condemn the actions of ISIS. Why was Trudeau reluctant to add his government’s witness to truth, given the general willingness in the international community to call this genocide what it was?
One reason might be that such a recognition would have triggered Regulation 138 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which defines vulnerable groups of people in urgent need of protection. A formal parliamentary recognition of genocide against the Yazidis would have obligated the Canadian government—morally, if not legally—to accept tens of thousands of Yazidi survivors to our shores.
Justin Trudeau was, however, from Day One fixated on rescuing Syrian Muslim refugees above all. As a result, actual genocide victims were forced to languish in exile from their homes in Mount Sinjar, reduced to rubble by ISIL, and who were still at risk from ISIL members in captivity, while 45,000 lightly-vetted Syrians from UNHCR camps, who had not been targeted for genocide, nor were in “urgent need of protection,” were whisked to Canada before Dec 31, 2015, by a marvellous coincidence permitting them to become citizens before this election.
Eventually, in October 2016, thanks largely to the persistent efforts of Michelle Rempel, Official Opposition critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Trudeau government did eventually vote to recognize the Yazidi situation as a genocide. But they never followed up on their pledge to bring in thousands of traumatized survivors. To date, of the estimated 500,000 Yazidis living in Iraq before the genocide, fewer than 1500 Yazidi survivors have been admitted to Canada.
All refugees suffer from culture shock, language barriers and other vulnerabilities. The Yazidis are exponentially more fragile. A number of the women are here with children, but no husbands or male kinsmen, because they were killed or their whereabouts undocumentable. They have endured sex slavery, some for years, and are near-paralyzed from PTSD. Illiteracy and poor schooling are common themes, because their culture is oral. None come speaking English.
Yet the government offered nugatory support. The dazed arrivals were expected to find housing on their own and learn enough English within the first year to find employment—a completely unrealistic expectation for these shell-shocked people. Were it not for the dedicated help of volunteers from groups such as Project Abraham, who help newcomers navigate the bewildering paperwork and simple tasks we take for granted, these people could not possibly integrate or even function. The bureaucracy has made it extremely difficult for kinsmen left behind, who could be a great moral support—sisters, nephews, in-law—to make application for reunion here.
Some of the stories these victims bring with them are heartbreaking. I interviewed one Yazidi woman, who had been a sex slave for 14 months, passed around amongst 13 different men. “Nada,” as I called her, had been living in London, Ontario for eight months when she recognized her former slave owner on a bus. Debarking, they stared at each other. She said he instantly covered his face and ran off. Nada went to the refugee centre, and told them what had happened. She gave an official there the man’s real name and also his ISIL name. Then, Nada told me, the official said to her, “Don’t tell anyone.”
After my account was published, there was a flurry of interest and dismay expressed at the idea of a jihadist having slipped through the vetting net. Nobody doubted he was the only one, either. I was contacted by the London Police Service. I referred them to Nada. To my knowledge, the man has not been found, even though it seems to me it shouldn’t have been that difficult to track him down.
It occurred to me that this would, for a prime minister obsessively focused on optics and photo opportunities that cast him in a benevolent light, have been a perfect opening for a gesture that would have endeared him to many Canadians. He could have contacted Nada, sat down with her, listened to her story (just as he listened to the story of Joshua Boyle and his wife on their return from captivity in Pakistan, for instance, bouncing their baby on his knee), promised to bring her tormenter to justice—and then, seen to it that justice was at least done to at least one ISIL member on Canadian soil. So easy. But no.
Mass graves of murdered Yazidis turn up every few weeks in Iraq, and 3,000 enslaved Yazidi women remain in captivity. Many Yazidis are now stuck in the new war zone that Turkey has just opened up in northern Syria. The Yazidi catastrophe was recognized as a genocide because of pressure brought to bear by the CPC. Will a Scheer government continue along the moral high road it embarked on, if it forms the next government? The fate of a devastated people depends on it.
I am grateful to Ottawa Immigration lawyer Julie Taub, a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board, for her substantial contribution in factfinding for this column.
As most in the mainstream media have pushed the narrative that even if the Liberals get less seats than the Conservatives they would still get first crack at forming government, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau himself said in the 2015 election “Whoever gets the most seats gets the first shot at trying to command the confidence of the House.”
Twitter account Pundit Class posted an interview between Trudeau and CBC’s former flagship anchor Peter Mansbridge where Trudeau pointed out historically that’s always how it’s been in Canada.
“Yes, that’s the way it’s always been,” Trudeau says earlier in the exchange when Mansbridge asked him it was his view the party with the most seats “has the right to govern at that point.”
Mainstream journalists such as Mansbridge’s successor Rosemary Barton have been promoting the idea that Trudeau would have first right to form government, even if the Conservatives win more seats. “It’s literally how the parliamentary system works,” Barton incorrectly said on Twitter, repeatedly retweeting others making the same claim.
In the 2015 interview Mansbridge mentions to Trudeau that when his father was the incumbent PM he argued the governing party “has the right to see what its options are.”
Trudeau responded saying, “I think the reality is there is such a clear desire for change amongst Canadians right now that Mr. Harper will have a very difficult time commanding the confidence of the House after this.”
Trudeau has dodged questions this election whether the Liberals would try to cobble together a coalition government if no party wins a majority of the seats in the House of Commons.
Scheer this week said “modern convention” dictates that Trudeau must resign as prime minister if his party doesn’t win the most seats.
The Canadian constitution and the Parliament of Canada Act don’t explicitly state how the prime minister is chosen in a minority government situation. However, historically the leader of the party with the most seats has become prime minister and the losing incumbent PM has not contested the other leader’s claim to power.
When asked whether his campaign solicited former U.S. president Barack Obama’s endorsement of Trudeau, the prime minister refused to provide a clear answer.
Earlier this week, Obama took to Twitter to endorse and provide glowing praise of Justin Trudeau short of a week before Canadians decide who the next prime minister will be.
“I was happy to be able to work alongside Barack Obama on important issues around the globe, including, significantly, the fight against climate change, and I’m working really hard to be able to continue that work over the next four years,” Trudeau told reporters on Thursday.
“I was obviously happy to hear his words yesterday, but nobody tells Barack Obama what he should do.”
Shortly after the endorsement, many people raised the alarm that a foreign leader was endorsing Trudeau and encouraging Canadians to vote for him.
In response, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh claimed that Obama’s characterization was wrong.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Mr. Obama, I think in this regard he is wrong,” said Singh.
The Post Millennial published the following column after an editor from a mainstream newspaper said it was “too inflammatory at the moment” and other newspapers rejected Moore’s submission.
Canada appears headed for a train wreck due to the widening chasm on energy, climate and finance policy between Alberta and Ottawa. It is possible that no combination of voting outcomes in the October 21 federal election can prevent the breakup of the federation.
Canada has been described as “a road from Ottawa to Montreal and back again”, a blunt reference to the fact that when Ontario and Quebec agree on something, the rest of us are chopped liver. This has given rise over the years to the angst known as western alienation. It has presently reached a boiling point like no other time in our history.
Premier Jason Kenny’s first move upon winning the Alberta vote was to call an inquiry into foreign (U.S.) funding of the anti-oilsands campaign. This will expose the dirty tactics of the Rockefeller Brothers-led initiative, funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into “grass-roots” environmental and First Nations front groups with the aim of landlocking Canadian oil and killing the project. Meanwhile 14 pipelines are under construction in Texas while zero are even approved in Canada.
All Canadians should imagine what it feels like for Albertans when both Ottawa and B.C. treat them like a hostile foreign power. B.C. pretends it doesn’t absolutely depend on Alberta for its transport and aviation fuel while blocking the Trans Mountain Pipeline that would bring Alberta oil to tidewater for export. And Eastern Canada prefers oil brought in tankers from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela rather than Canadian oil from Alberta via the stalled Energy East Pipeline. Meanwhile Ottawa bans tankers on the Pacific coast.
Whether it’s the Conservatives or the Liberals that are able to form a government in October, both are committed to the Paris Agreement on climate change. This applies in spades to both the Greens and the NDP. Only the People’s Party of Canada has pledged to quit Paris and to unabashedly support the oilsands and the pipelines that are needed to deliver it to Eastern Canada and to tidewater in B.C. So long as our federal government supports this anti-fossil fuel fraud there will be no further investment in Alberta’s and Canada’s most important energy sector. Meanwhile, some signatories to the Paris Agreement, such as China and India, are free to increase their emissions with no restriction.
Alberta’s first move after the election will likely be to hold a referendum calling for a renegotiation of the equalization payments formula. Under the present formula, Alberta is required to make large payments despite their now very difficult economic situation. An inevitably successful referendum result would force Ottawa and the other provinces to the table, but it is likely the talks will fail, increasing resentment in the province. Then Premier Kenny will have the ammunition he needs to call for a referendum on the separation of Alberta from Canada. This may pass with a comfortable majority.
Saskatchewan would almost certainly join Alberta,and Manitoba would definitely consider it. What British Columbia will do is anybody’s guess, but if they decide to stay with Ottawa they will be decidedly isolated. Although a bit far-fetched, the real wild card is Ontario. This would be an opportunity to realize what has been called “Ontario and West”as the new Canada. The fact that Ontario has needed Quebec’s agreement all these years has led to a certain resentment of the fact, often accompanied by what might be called extortion on Quebec’s part. Quebec separatists may get what they bargained for without having to win a referendum of their own! Lord knows how the Maritime Provinces would react to any of this.
I realize that many Canadians, particularly those in the eastern half of the country, don’t believe any of this could ever happen. They should take a vacation in Alberta to smarten themselves up. It’s not very nice to be treated like a leper when you are one of the main economic providers for people who call your oil “dirty” and “filthy” while they import the same product from despots, dictators and corrupt regimes in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela.
Dr. Patrick Moore is a native British Columbian, a co-founder of Greenpeace and an ecologist with wide international experience in energy and climate policy. He is presently the Chairman of the CO2 Coalition in Washington DC.
Imagine that for two months, you are placed under a curfew. For two months, your phone and internet services are cut. For two months, you do not know how your family members and relatives are doing. For two months, your local hospital has not had adequate medical supplies.
For two months and counting, your life, and of those around you, has come to a virtual standstill.
This is the reality of the situation in the Indian-administered region of Kashmir.
It is the equivalent of, say, the Canadian government sending thousands of soldiers into Quebec and implementing a total blackout in the region.
Anyone with a sense of humanity within them would be concerned.
Yet Canadians have seen neither proper news coverage, nor a proper response by almost any federal party leader, on this issue.
As a nation that is a global champion of human rights, Canada must, at the very least, inform its citizens on the issue and federal leaders must also release a statement.
One finds it almost hypocritical that all federal leaders released statements in support of the people of Hong Kong, protesting against a brutally authoritarian regime masking itself behind the red banner of Communism.
Yet when we see something similar, if not worse, happening in India, we turn a blind eye.
India is hiding its authoritarianism behind the mask of “development and security.” One would expect better from Canada’s ally and one of the world’s largest democracy.
Kashmir is a long and historical source of tension between India and Pakistan. Both nations have fought numerous wars over it for the last 70 years.
The issue of who has legal rights over Kashmir is a contentious one. For what it’s worth, both India and Pakistan are equally responsible for the mess in the region.
Pakistan has been arming jihadists and supporting violent extremists in the region to create instability; the Indian army has been committing numerous human rights abuses against women and children.
So of course, this entire situation is not just plainly India’s fault. ]
But what is India’s fault, however, is this draconian imposition of an authoritarian blackout that was blasted on the Kashmiri people against their will.
Hospitals are out of medical supplies; people can’t contact their relatives; Kashmir has no access to the outside world; and the Indian army’s presence is in the hundreds of thousands.
Global Affairs’ official response has been a moot one, and its hollowness hurts more than it helps.
If anything, leaders should at least express their opinions on the issue. We can’t treat Hong Kong any different from Kashmir.
As Canadians, we are lucky to be able to read these articles. Kashmiris, cannot.
It is for those eight million helpless people that Canadian leaders should stand up for. It is imperative that Canada continues to champion human rights on the global stage.