NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the newly appointed federal special representative to combat Islamophobia is being victimized by calls for her to quit over past remarks on Quebec.
“I think, for any woman seeing this, they look at this and see this looks really familiar, the piling on of a woman in particular, particularly a racialized woman, I think, is really troubling in general, and in this case, it seems to be problematic,” Mr. Singh told a Monday news conference on Parliament Hill.
Mr. Singh’s comments follow calls from the Quebec government for Amira Elghawaby to resign or be fired over a 2019 opinion piece she co-wrote in the Ottawa Citizen linking “anti-Muslim sentiment” to Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans certain government employees from wearing religious symbols at work. The column is here.
Mr. Singh said Ms. Elghawaby has clarified her remarks, and that the issue of Islamophobia is not relegated to one province or one community but is a problem for the whole country. “We need to take it seriously.”
In response to criticism over the column, Ms. Elghawaby tweeted on Friday, “I don’t believe that Quebecers are Islamophobic, my past comments were in reference to a poll on Bill 21. I will work with partners from all provinces and regions to make sure we address racism head on.”
On Monday, Jean-François Roberge, Quebec’s minister responsible for relations with Canada and for state secularism, said in a statement that the province had initially demanded an apology from Ms. Elghawaby, which he said did not happen. Now, he said, she has to go.
“All she did was try to justify her abhorrent remarks,” Mr. Roberge said. “That is not acceptable. She must resign, and if she does not, the government must remove her immediately.”
Ms. Elghawaby was appointed to her post by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Asked Monday about calls for her resignation, Mr. Trudeau told journalists before going into Question Period, “She is there to speak for the community, with the community and to build bridges across.
“Obviously, she has thought carefully over many years about the impacts that various pieces of legislation, and various political positions have had on the community. Her job now is to make sure she is helping the government, and helping everyone move forward in the fight against Islamophobia.”
He said he was satisfied with the clarification presented in Ms. Elghawaby’s tweet.
Elsewhere, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said, at a news conference of his own, that Ms. Elghawaby had associated Quebec with Islamophobia, “whatever the definition of that might happen to be.”
“I am not surprised that she is opposed to Bill 21, but Bill 21 is a Quebec jurisdiction about Quebec national identity, and it is the most absolute right of the Quebec National Assembly to make such a decision and to implement such a decision,” he said.
“But what she said in the past is not that she was in disagreement with this law, but that we were, basically, Islamophobic and racist. This s the problem.”
Meanwhile, an emotional ceremony took place Sunday marking the sixth anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting, held for the first time in the same room where many of the victims were killed. Story here.
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L’ARCHE FOUNDER LINKED TO ABUSE - At least 25 women were abused over nearly seven decades by Jean Vanier, the Canadian co-founder of L’Arche, a global organization for the intellectually disabled, a lengthy independent report has found after a two-year investigation. Story here.
LIBERAL MP PRESSES FOR MORE ROOM FOR UYGHUR REFUGEES - Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi is calling on members of the federal cabinet to support a motion that would urge Ottawa to make room in its refugee intake for 10,000 Uyghurs and members of other Turkic groups who have fled China and are living in third countries such as Turkey. Story here.
CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES CONDUCTING JOINT RESEARCH WITH CHINESE MILITARY SCIENTISTS - Canadian universities have for years collaborated with a top Chinese army scientific institution on hundreds of advanced-technology research projects, generating knowledge that can help drive China’s defence sector in cutting-edge, high-tech industries. Story here.
OUELLET RETIRING - Marc Ouellet, the Quebec cardinal who oversaw the Vatican’s powerful bishops’ office and has been recently accused of sexual misconduct, is retiring. Story here.
GYMNASTICS CANADA CEO IN THE HOT SEAT - Gymnastics Canada chief executive officer Ian Moss was on the hot seat at the status of women hearings on safety of women in sport on Monday. Story here.
LOCAL REPORT OUT ON IMPACT OF CONVOY OCCUPATION - A report into the impact of the so-called Freedom Convoy occupation on residents of Ottawa has accused all three levels of government of failing to uphold the human rights of people who live and work in downtown Ottawa. Story here from CTV.
DETAILS REVEALED ON DRUG DECRIMINALIZATION PLAN IN B.C. - British Columbians are getting a clearer picture of what the province’s three-year plan to decriminalize small amounts of certain illicit drugs for personal use will look like when it launches Tuesday. Story here from CTV.
ALBERTA CONCERNED ABOUT MAID POLICY - Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s office says the province objects to Ottawa’s plan to extend eligibility for medically assisted death to people whose sole underlying condition is a mental illness. Story here.
CABINET SHUFFLE IN MANITOBA - Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson has demoted three ministers who recently announced they will not be running in the next election and promoted four backbenchers from Winnipeg to cabinet. Story here.
OTTAWA CITIZEN MP SAYS WELLINGTON STREET SHOULD REMAIN CLOSED - The MP for Ottawa Centre tells The Ottawa Citizen here that Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill should remain closed to facilitate “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine the area as a nationally significant, people-first space.” But the paper’s former city columnist has a sharply different take on the subject here.
2023 FEDERAL ELECTION UNLIKELY: PUNDITS - Even though federal political leaders have been using some heated, election-style language to snipe at each other in recent weeks, pundits say it’s unlikely Canadians will go to the polls in 2023. Story here from CBC.
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons is sitting again. The Projected Order of Business is accessible here.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER’S DAY - Chrystia Freeland, in Ottawa, held private meetings , attended Question Period, and also met with Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market. She also held a working dinner with Mr. Breton.
PREMIERS PLEASED - The premiers Council of the Federation has issued a statement, available here, saying they are looking forward to the Feb. 7 meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on health care. “As a federal proposal has not yet been received by Premiers, this meeting will mark the beginning of the direct First Ministers’ dialogue and follow-up required to achieve the significant investment and outcomes expected by all Canadians on this fundamental priority,” it says.
COMMONS COMMITTEE HEARINGS - Hearings on Monday include: The standing committee on Government Operations and Estimates on Federal Government Consulting Contracts Awarded to McKinsey and Company. Details, including video link, here. Also, the standing committee on veterans affairs is meeting on a national strategy for veterans employment service. Details here. The standing committee on industry and technology, details here, is holding a hearing on a contract awarded to Sinclair Technologies - a situation recounted here. And the standing committee on the status of women is holding a hearing on women and girls in sport. Details, including videolink, are here.
SENATE COMMITTEE HEARINGS - There are details here on a pair of Senate hearings later this afternoon. The national security, defense and veterans affairs committee is looking at issues related to security and defence in the Arctic and the official languages committee is conducting a study on Francophone immigration to minority communities.
On Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, the Globe’s senior political reporter Marieke Walsh talks about changes to the Liberal government’s gun-control legislation, Bill C-21, brought in last May. Amendments to the legislation have led to confusion with some types of guns banned in some of those amendments, but not in others – and the Liberals’ lack of communication is frustrating people on all sides of the issue. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER'S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, held private meetings, attended Question Period and, in the evening, delivered remarks at a Tamil Heritage Month Reception hosted by Scarborough-Rouge Park MP Gary Anandasangaree and the National Defence Minister Anita Anand.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Ottawa, held a news conference on the return of Parliament and participated in Question Period.
No schedules held for other party leaders.
VIOLA LEGER - Former senator Viola Léger, whose career as an actress saw her prolifically play the character La Sagouine more than 3,000 times in Antonine Maillet’s play of the same name, has died at the age of 92.
HAZEL MCCALLION - Hazel McCallion, the 12-term mayor of Mississauga, Ont. has died, aged 101. In an obituary here, Adrian Morrow writes about how, over 36 years in office, Ms. McCallion rode the winds of public opinion, reading the changing moods of her city and transforming it.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how new energy is needed for clean power at Gull Island: “One of Canada’s best opportunities to build more clean power and to reduce emissions – and dare we say it, foster national unity – starts with solving a knotty problem that stretches back more than half a century. The idea makes economic sense, and it makes climate sense – it’s up to Ottawa, the provinces, and Indigenous peoples to make sure decades of fraught politics do not once again derail the potential to generate a new bounty of clean hydro power.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the broken clock policies of Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre: “Mr. Trudeau has a set of fiscal-policy instincts that only operate on one side of the ledger. As it happens, he faces an opponent, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who operates only on the other. Part of that is just their partisan identities, Liberal and Conservative. But these two leaders are so defined by those brands that they stick to them without worrying about balance or circumstances. Each has their own hammer, so everything looks like their kind of nail.”
Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on how the Alberta UCP needs to be cautious as an election approaches despite Moody ugrading the province’s long-term rating: “One thing is sure: This UCP government can no longer legitimately blame the province’s fiscal problems on the NDP government of 2015-19, as it has done in the past. By now, everything lands squarely on their shoulders. The UCP will, however, still campaign on the premise that electing an NDP government will lead to a spending binge. The Smith government wants to hold onto its rep for being more fiscally disciplined than the NDP, especially as interest rates rise. But as the province draws nearer to the campaign period, the desire to announce things – all of them costing money – will be strong.”
Michael Adams, Jobran Khanji and Keith Neuman (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Canada must continue modelling its refugee efforts on its response to the Syrian crisis: “Canada acted quickly to take in 40,000 Syrian refugees in a short span of time between November, 2015, and December, 2016, and it is important to know how they are doing today (and not just through the success stories captured by the media). This is the question that the Environics Institute sought to answer in a national study with a representative sample of Syrian refugees on their lived experience since arriving in Canada. The answer is that Syrian refugees who arrived in the first wave are doing remarkably well. Our study shows that most Syrian refugees who arrived in 2015 and 2016 have established new lives for themselves and their families in Canada, largely overcoming the initial hurdles that face all refugees (and especially those who come from societies with different languages and cultures).”
Jann Arden and Jessica Scott-Reid (Contributed to the Globe and Mail) on how horses are still being exported for slaughter, and the question of whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will take action: “Ahead of the most recent federal election, as Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party were racing toward voting day, campaign promises were hitting the news cycle fast and furiously. Banning the export of live horses for slaughter was an easy appeal. Most Canadians love horses and the thought of ending the heinous practice of loading these sensitive, skittish animals onto gruelling long-haul flights only to be slaughtered in a foreign country was enough to inspire many Canadians to vote red. We did. The Liberals won. But here we are more than a year later and live horses are still being exported from Canada, as recently as this month, to be cut up for sashimi in Japan and leaving many of us who voted with great hope feeling duped.”
Benedikt Fischer (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how B.C.’s overdose crisis needs life-saving interventions more urgently than decriminalization: “Tuesday marks the first day of B.C.’s “drug decriminalization” initiative: Adults carrying up to 2.5 grams of most illicit drugs for personal use will no longer be arrested or have the substance seized by police. For the federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the measure represents “bold actions and significant policy change,” reduces drug users’ “stigma and harm” and provides “another tool to end the overdose crisis.” This optimistic impact projection is questionable for several concrete reasons.”
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