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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the “constitutional battles” of the past have left their scars, but he is aiming for a more straightforward approach to Quebec seeking to change the Constitution as part of its plan to bolster the French language in the province.

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As part of its new proposed Bill 96, the government of Quebec Premier François Legault has introduced changes to language laws that would amend the Canadian Constitution to recognize Quebec as a nation and French as its only official and common language. Mr. Trudeau has been supportive.

During a news conference Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau said he is intent on protecting the rights of both francophones and anglophones across Canada, including official languages minorities, as part of his responsibilities as Prime Minister.

“That is something I have never wavered from, and will never waver from. At the same time, we have all been through the constitutional battles of the past number of decades that have left many scars on many people,” he said.

“I choose always to look forward, look forward to how we can continue to protect French across the country and in Quebec while, at the same time, ensuring protection for linguistic minorities, including the anglophone minority in Quebec. These are the things that matter most to me.”

Mr. Trudeau said it is clear that Quebec is a nation. “It is a historical fact, a sociological fact, a fact of daily lives, and it is something that even Parliament has recognized. We need to move forward and ensure, at the same time as we are protecting French within Quebec, we are also protecting linguistic minorities within Quebec and across the country.”

On some other issues, Mr. Trudeau said:

- The weekend arrest of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich demonstrates “outrageous, illegal and completely unacceptable” behaviour by the Belarus regime. “We condemn it and call for [Mr. Protasevich’s] immediate release.” He said Canada has existing sanctions in place against Belarus, and “will be examining further options.”

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- He will be participating with the premiers and territorial leaders in a conference call on Thursday. Topics on the agenda include measures to end the third wave of the pandemic, as well as various reopening plans and what is working well.

- He is averse to an election any time soon. “Nobody wants an election before the end of the pandemic because [dealing with] the pandemic is our priority,” he said.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

ALBERTA ASK ON UNIVERSITIES AND CHINA - Alberta is urging the federal government to set strong national standards to ensure that Canadian universities and researchers are not transferring scientific data and intellectual property to China that benefits its military and security apparatus.

ADVANCES IN SEARCH FOR NEW GOVERNOR-GENERAL - A short list with suggested names for a new governor-general is expected to be shared with the Prime Minister in the coming weeks, setting the stage for Justin Trudeau to name the Queen’s representative in Canada.

MILITARY JUSTICE REVIEW COMING - An independent review from former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish will be released in days, examining the military justice system including how it handles offences of a sexual nature. A spokesperson for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan confirmed that the Fish report is expected to tabled on or before June 1.

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SENIOR PUBLIC SERVANT RAPS MILITARY SEXUAL MISCONDUCT INITIATIVE- From CBC: Canada’s deputy minister of National Defence says the military’s operation to end sexual misconduct in its ranks “lost its way” because the government failed to properly implement recommendations from a landmark report into the issue six years ago. Story here.

B.C. TODAY ANNOUNCES RESTART PROGRAM - British Columbia will today announce its COVID-19 restart plan with Premier John Horgan at the a news conference this afternoon. There’s a story here on what’s expected.

IVESON-NENSHI REFLECTIONS - Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson reflect here on the challenges ahead for Alberta’s two big cities. From The Edmonton Journal.

O’TOOLE FACES PREMIER TROUBLE - Éric Grenier of CBC on the struggles of Erin O’Toole and his provincial counterparts Jason Kenny and Doug Ford. “Erin O’Toole isn’t breaking through — and Jason Kenney and Doug Ford aren’t helping.” Story here.

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

The Prime Minister speaks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. He also delivers an address on COVID-19, and holds a news conference. And he attends Question Period.

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LEADERS

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will hold a virtual media availability on COVID-19 and attends Question Period.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on federal Liberal reticence about the UNDRIP bill they are about to pass: UNDRIP has become a potent symbol, and the debate tends to sink into empty symbolism. But all that should really matter to anyone is its substance, and its impact. And that is, deliberately, clear as mud.”

Tari Ajadi and Debra Thompson (The Globe and Mail) on how the two pandemics of anti-Black racism and COVID-19 are tied together: “In all that we’ve lived and lost this past year, we cannot think of these two phenomena – anti-Black racism and COVID-19 – as separate. Both are global, though nationally textured. Both had the potential to be mitigated by decisive government action or accelerated by epic government failure. Both are simultaneously individualistic and systemic. Both have exposed the cracks in our national moral consciousness about the definition of the common good. And both are existential threats that fuel death, degradation and destruction within our sociopolitical ecosystems. But the two pandemics are not just similar, they are interlocking, and have wrought havoc on racialized communities across the continent.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how younger generations will pay for the $500 seniors bonus in last month’s budget:Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s recovery budget should have focused on spending that will make things better 10 or 20 years from now, but the Liberals couldn’t resist a lot of short-term consumption and free riding on the young people who will eventually pay the bill.”

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André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on how the easing of COVID-19 public health measures can’t be a free-for-all: “The missing piece of the deconfinement plans in both [Ontario and Quebec] was a commitment to slam the door shut if case numbers do jump again. Yet, if there is an overarching lesson of the pandemic, it’s that: To counter the spread of a wily virus, you have to shut down swiftly and reopen slowly. Yes, hope is here. But if we want to remain hopeful, and on track to post-COVID freedom, we have to be willing and ready to adjust our metrics and timetables, and curb our enthusiasm.”

Don Macpherson (Quebec affairs for the Montreal Gazette, 1985-2020) on an anglo’s guide to Bill 96: “There has been much controversy over the unilateral constitutional amendment proposed in Bill 96 declaring that “Quebecers form a nation.” Less attention has been paid to the possible implications of the second part of that proposal, which would also declare French “the only official language of Quebec” and “the common language of the Quebec nation.” ...The constitutional proposal appears symbolic. But a constitutional expert who helped draft the proposal, Benoît Pelletier, a former Quebec Liberal minister, told Le Devoir it could be “one more card in the hand” of government lawyers defending the law against court challenges.”

Paul Wells (Maclean’s) on Trudeau le québécois : “But in an election likely to come this autumn, [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] would like to pick up, let’s say, another 10 seats in Quebec. He’s already on track to pick up six, according to one projection, mostly because the Bloc Québécois vote has softened. Those winnable seats are generally outside Montreal, overwhelmingly francophone, and in places where most people didn’t vote Liberal the last two times. So this year Trudeau seems to be preferring honey to vinegar.”

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