The City of Montreal is a mess and it’s time for change. The municipal elections are this November and candidates are clamoring to show that they are most qualified to fix our construction problems, frivolous expenditures and lack of accountability. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to take an interest in municipal politics, and it’s easy to see why.

Federal and Provincial politics deal with sexy issues like healthcare, education, Native rights, law enforcement and treaties. Municipal politics deals with dogs and decorations and infrastructure. They’re not sexy but they are important, so this article will give you a crash course on Montreal’s upcoming elections and some of the issues at hand.

First, let’s talk about dogs.

In June 2016 a dog mauled a Pointe-Aux-Trembles woman to death. In response, City Hall under current mayor Denis Coderre introduced a bylaw requiring that dogs be muzzled in public, banning pitbulls and other “dangerous breeds”.

The rules were met with outrage from everyone, arguing that the law created arbitrary rules in an attempt to prevent something that’s impossible to predict. It pushes the notion that certain breeds are more prone to violence than others and has forced many dog owners to consider leaving the city rather than getting rid of their beloved pets in order to conform to the bylaw. Despite the outrage, the bylaw stands.

Projet Montreal led by Valérie Plante is by far Coderre’s greatest competition, and they have a few things to say about the current mayor.

The party’s website says:

“Like you, we care for the safety of all. And like you, we also know that policies based on a dog’s breed or appearance (BSL) are ineffective in protecting the public.”

Rather than banning some breeds, their focus is on responsible pet ownership including providing financial incentives for pet sterilization, and better control of the sales and life conditions of pets. It’s clear that should Projet win the election one of their first orders of business will be abolishing the pitbull ban.

Now let’s talk about expenditures.

This year is Montreal’s 375th anniversary and we should be celebrating, but how much celebrating is too much?

Anyone who plans a party knows that one must work within a budget, especially if the money is not yours.

In honor of the City’s anniversary, Coderre spent $39.5 million to light up the Jacques Cartier Bridge with LED lights. Coderre also took the liberty of spending $3.45 million on granite tree stumps on Mount Royal, which strike many as not only frivolous, but impractical. As Sue Montgomery, Projet Montréal’s candidate for borough mayor of CDN/NDG recently mentioned, the design of the stumps doesn’t even allow people to sit on them, as they’re slanted in such a way people and objects slide right off (unlike actual tree stumps).

Where did the money for these things come from?

It came from the taxpayers, which means that we’re footing the bill. Was there public consultation about this? Did the mayor seek our consent before using our money to buy these things?

Not really.

One of Projet Montreal’s big platforms this election is that of accountability. They want the city’s leadership to answer to citizens the way they’re supposed to.

Coderre’s goal for all these projects was to put Montreal on the map, but as many of Coderre’s critics have pointed out, the city was already on the map. We have the Jazz Festival, the Just for Laughs festival, Francopholies, Nuits d’Afrique, Carifest, the fireworks competition and tons of other annual events that draw thousands of tourists every year. Most of us agree that the money spent on cosmetic additions was a waste. That money could have been better spent fixing a Montreal problem so great it’s become a joke:

The problem I’m talking about is municipal construction.

Projet Montreal calls the problem “Kône-o-Rama” and vows to “end bad traffic management by creating a traffic authority, ready to intervene to eliminate obstacles on roads, sidewalks and bike paths.”

The problem, however, is much more than that.

Construction projects, while often necessary, are poorly managed. Highway exits are closed, but the signs indicating as much are often placed too close to the site of the work, leaving motorists struggling to find alternate access points to their destinations, creating delays.

Where sidewalks are closed for construction, workers seldom indicate alternate footpaths for pedestrians, something that especially puts the city’s disabled, elderly, and people with babies at risk. Where businesses are blocked off due to holes in the street, the best construction workers offer is a wobbly and unsafe ramp to get to the door. Not to mention the noise, the dust, and the lack of proper safety barriers.

It has become such a joke in this town that souvenir shops now offer ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of traffic cones with the city’s name on them.

Coderre has been conspicuously silent about all of this, while Projet Montreal is demanding remedies as part of their accountability and accessibility platforms. They want to see coordination between the construction projects to make sure cyclists and pedestrians are kept safe and the city is accessible for everyone.

Projet Montreal is not the only party to challenge the current administration.

Other parties include Vrai Changement, pushing leader Justine McIntyre for mayor of the Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough. Vrai Changement is running on a platform of economic development, less dependence on motor vehicles, and improving public transportation. Unfortunately, the party focus seems primarily on the Pierrefonds-Roxboro and Lachine boroughs and not on the city’s overall well-being.

Coalition Montreal has candidates running mostly in the Côte des Neiges and NDG borough. They are pushing Zaki Ghavitian for Borough Mayor and hoping leader Marvin Rotrand, former vice-chair of the STM currently on the city council, retains his council seat representing Snowdon. Whether they present a candidate for JMayor of Montreal remains to be seen.

More than any other election, the municipal one is the one most likely to affect our daily lives. Stay informed and when the time comes, VOTE.

With Québec Solidaire (QS) talking like they aren’t just hoping for a better result than last time and really want to form government come the next Quebec election, there has been one burning question on the minds of their supporters, casual observers and people at all familiar with how the party functions: just who would be in charge if they are successful. After all, they do have two spokespeople/defacto leaders.

This had been the case long before Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Manon Massé were elected to fill the posts. But up until now, QS was never really a contender. Now, with the implosion of the Parti Québécois (PQ) on the horizon (I really think they’re almost done) and people looking for a new alternative to the Liberals, the question of just who would hold power in a potential QS government becomes incredibly relevant.

Yesterday, we got an answer and it’s one that could significantly change the Quebec political landscape if enacted:

 

Inspired by models employed in various republics around the world, the QS plan would strip the Premier of some powers and give them to the elected MNAs and a newly important role of Vice-Premier (or Vice Premier Ministre in French). The Vice-Premier would serve as parliamentary leader whereas the Premier would be a chief executive, a head of state.

And just who would serve in which role? Well, QS members will vote on that in spring 2018.

While Nadeau-Dubois assured viewers in his Facebook video that the plan would work within the current system, it would certainly signal a change from business as usual in the National Assembly.

Leave it to QS to answer a simple question about how their party works with a challenge to the powers of the premier and a proposal that would fundamentally change the Quebec democratic process for generations if it comes to pass.

In 2014, a truck ran into and killed cyclist Mathilde Blais as she rode through an underpass on St-Denis. City Hall opposition party Projet Montreal and other groups immediately called for something to be done. Now, it seems like the solution Mayor Denis Coderre’s administration came up with is to turn a potentially dangerous situation for cyclists into a different potentially dangerous situation for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The sidewalk on Atwater Avenue between Rene Levesque and St-Antoine heading towards the underpass near Lionel Groulx Metro is now also a bike path. At least that’s what the paint city workers put there indicates.

“They’re basically setting up future collisions between pedestrians and cyclists,” said Craig Sauvé, City Councillor with Projet Montréal in a phone interview, “or worse, if a cyclist has to veer into traffic at the last second to avoid hitting a pedestrian.”

Sauvé, who represents St-Henri, Little Burgundy and Pointe St-Charles and is a cyclist himself, knew that changes were coming, changes he and his party had pushed for, but seeing what the Coderre administration had actually done left him feeling bewildered and a little bit panicked.

“They’re not securing,” he commented, “they’re putting paint and saying it’s secure. In order to secure places, you have to give cyclists their space as well and if you don’t they’re going to take it and it will be the same zero sum game as there was before.”

Montreal’s bike paths are controlled by City Hall, regardless of the borough or boroughs (or even de-merged cities) they run through. Atwater isn’t the only recent painted change to come to light. On Montée de Liesse, paint directs cyclists to somehow drive onto a part of sidewalk that doesn’t even dip. If they dismount, they would be doing so in traffic:

Photo credit: u/butidigest on reddit

For Sauvé, a good solution to this mess would be delineating and protecting part of the roads going through underpasses with an actual barrier like one made of cement or even plastic poles. Something which, he observes, quite doable on Atwater as there are currently three lanes of traffic in either direction, one of which could easily be turned into a space for cyclists.

And that’s exactly what Sauvé, fellow politicans, activists and concerned citizens were asking the Coderre administration to do. It’s really not that hard. Instead of paint, just bring some plastic poles.

It seems like Coderre is all for bike safety as long as it doesn’t inconvenience motorists in the slightest. The health and safety of pedestrians is not even an afterthought, it’s inconsequential.

As a proud member of the BMW Set (bus, metro, walk), that just doesn’t fly. I’ve walked through that particular underpass countless times on the sidewalk and know that, especially when walking up the rather steep hill, the last thing you want to contend with is bikes whipping down it.

I wonder if anyone involved in planning these new “bike paths” had ever rode a bike or walked through any of the underpasses in question. It honestly looks like a mistake, one that they are repeating all across the city.

Could it be that they just don’t know? More likely they don’t really care and see bike safety as something they grudgingly pay lip service to and pedestrian safety as something that only matters when a bad story makes the news.

If the city really wants to make things safer for cyclists, they should ask cyclists what to do and really should consult pedestrians before dual-zoning a sidewalk on a rather steep incline. Otherwise they’ll wind up replacing one dangerous situation with one potentially more treacherous.

* Listen to the full interview with Craig Sauvé on the next FTB Podcast

Anyone living in the Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough will tell you that unless you are construction worker with a cushy government contract, the area is a living hell. Entire blocks of main streets have been closed to construction and companies operate in flagrant violation of municipal noise and safety laws.

Everyone is afraid to phone in a complaint because of concerns of reprisals from people wielding heavy machinery. Businesses are suffering, people are losing sleep and getting noise headaches, and even buying groceries has become an obstacle course of spraying gravel and thoroughfares laden with holes, making it hazardous for the borough’s disabled and elderly and anyone with a baby carriage.

It is concerns over the borough’s construction problems and the offer of the most pragmatic solution that will likely determine the outcome of the upcoming municipal election in NDG/Côte des Neiges.

I had the privilege of speaking to one of the candidates for borough mayor, Sue Montgomery, a former journalist now representing Projet Montreal, a party running on a platform of accessibility for the disabled, cultural diversity, and administrative accountability, among other things. She is up against current Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre’s man, Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, and a newcomer, Zaki Ghavitian, who entered the race last Tuesday.

Montgomery welcomed me into her home in NDG. Though running for office, there is little that is politician-like about her. She met me at the door and cheerfully joked about how the humid weather impacted her curly hair. It did not feel like an interview but rather like a new friend inviting me for tea.

Here’s what we talked about.

SG: Why are you running?

SM: Part of the reason is what’s going on south of the border. I’m horrified by it like many people and I thought if good people don’t step up, the same thing could possibly happen here. Obviously I’m not running for president but it starts at the grassroots and can go up.

I’ve lived here for 20 years and I think it’s an amazing borough but I don’t think it’s at its potential. I think there are a lot of problems and I think there’s some incredible grassroots groups that are active here and I’d like to work with those groups and coordinate things better. We’re the biggest borough, but I’d like us to be the envy of the other boroughs.

What do you feel the current leadership is doing well?

I don’t think Russell is doing a bad job. He has a lot of experience as a politician. I don’t think he’s really into the job. He’s not here full time. He works downtown on the Executive Committee so he’s really only here a couple of days a week and I think this borough needs a full time mayor, which is what I would be. I have no desire to be on the Executive Committee.

What do you feel you can improve?

In terms of our borough, right now, construction is a nightmare. I would like to improve the coordination of it, the organization of it, and the communication about it. I would also like to improve communication with residents, so instead of having a thing where we meet every month at borough council meetings, I would like to hold casual once a month also in a café.

I think the borough council meeting can be a bit intimidating. A lot of people don’t understand politics – I count myself among them earlier in my life – I didn’t take a lot of interest in it. I think a lot of women and young people don’t because they don’t recognize themselves in the people who are running things, i.e. middle aged white guys. I would like to make it more grassroots, more democratic, more consultation, more discussion.

As mayor, I’m not going to have the answers. I’m going to have a lot of questions: Why are things like this? Why is it working like this? Why is not working like this? Which is my journalistic background. I have ideas, but I don’t have the answers. I think the people who have the answers are groups like Head and Hands and the NDG Food Depot, NDG Community Council, the Immigrant Workers’ Center. These are people at the ground level who know this is what we need and how do we get that.

Regarding the construction in NDG, what do you feel is the source of the problems?

A lot of this work is done by subcontractors, so there should be a mechanism to find them if their worksite is not secure for pedestrians and cyclists. We need people to go around and check that they’re properly set up.

To me it feels like there’s no accountability here. I remember being a journalist when the bridge collapsed. Heads would roll in other provinces for something like that and they didn’t here. No one was ever held accountable. I would want to know do they have a list of complaints? Do they have a list of what was done with those complaints? Was it followed up? How was it followed up? If it wasn’t, why not? Who is responsible here?

Do you think a standard protocol should be set up?

Absolutely! It’s all about accountability. You can’t just have a number people call and nothing happens. I’ve talked to people since the storm (the microburst which hit NDG particularly hard) where they’ve called in about trees and were told it would be 3 years, 5 years…

How do you feel the city reacted to that big storm?

From what I hear from residents, they were pretty impressed with the cleanup and I know that a lot of healthy trees came down. But I would like to know how many of those trees were rotten and how many of them had been reported because we were SUPER lucky that no one was injured.

I’ve talked to an arborist who told me that this borough is the most neglected when it comes to tree maintenance and a lot of the trees that came down were rotten. With climate change, we’re going to see a lot more of these storms and so that has to be a priority, maintaining those trees.

Montgomery chatted openly about the challenges she will face as the only female candidate running in the borough. Her focus is on improving access for people who rely on sidewalks, bicycles, and public transportation while making sure that the more problematic elements in CDN/NDG are held to account.

Her unpolitician-like demeanor is appealing to more cynical voters and her approachability makes her a sure contender. Whether she’ll be able to win over those who want to be led by a politician remains to be seen.

In Quebec there is no law more hotly discussed, debated, or resented than Bill 101.

These days Bill 101 is seen one of two ways. People who love the Bill see it as necessary way to preserve Quebec’s Francophone identity in the face of cultural and linguistic assimilation attempts. Others see it as a means for Quebec’s French-speaking majority to treat the province’s other linguistic minorities like garbage.

The issue is a lot more complex than that and in order to properly explain, we need to go back in time.

The year was 1760 when Great Britain took over New France. British leaders replaced the French ones and did their best to impose their will on the French-speaking majority. This oppression went on for the next two hundred years during which there were Francophone rebellions to assert their rights but they were all quashed by the British. One of the few but significant concessions the British made to North American Francophones was allowing them to keep their Catholic faith despite the Crown’s dislike of the Papacy.

Everything began to change in the 1960s due in part to the Quiet Revolution in which every aspect of Quebec society from political patronage to the economy to social, cultural, and religious life came under scrutiny with the widespread recognition that change was needed. The increasing demand of Quebec Francophones for protections of their language and culture eventually led to the establishment of the the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, a federal commission that took place from 1963 to 1971.

The Royal Commission revealed that the number of French-speaking people in Quebec was not reflected in their actual political and economic representation. In 1965 Francophones made an average of thirty-five percent less than Anglophones and there were concerns about the lack of Francophone representation in federal institutions.

The actual inequalities had a few effects.

First was the belief that the status of the French language in Canada was fragile, the second was the rise of Quebec nationalism which argues that the only way Quebec can preserve its language and culture is to separate from an English-speaking majority Canada.

Bill 101 was brought in to preserve the French language in Quebec, but it was not the first law to try and do so. In 1969 Bill 63, the Act to Promote the French Language in Quebec was enacted, which required that kids receiving an English education get a working knowledge of French and that the government facilitate immigrants learning French when they arrive in Quebec. The law was disliked by Quebec Francophones because it didn’t go far enough; it was eventually replaced by Bill 22 in 1974.

Bill 22 was enacted by the provincial Liberal government under Robert Bourassa. It established French as Quebec’s official language and required that all immigrants arriving in Quebec learn French.

In 1976 the Parti Québecois under René Levesque took power and a year later, Bill 101 was enacted.

Bill 101 aka the Charte de la langue française made French Quebec’s official language and enacted a lot of the rules still in force today. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the three sets of rules people seem to resent the most: the language of education, the language of commerce, and that of government services.

The law requires that kindergarten, elementary, and secondary school instruction be in French. There are exceptions to this and they work as follows:

  • If the father, mother (or both) is a Canadian citizen and received a major part of their elementary school instruction in English in Canada, one parent can request their child receive English instruction
  • If the father, mother (or both) as well as the child’s siblings are Canadian citizen and received or are receiving a major part of their elementary or secondary education in Canada in English, the child can go to English school

The law robs parents of the freedom of choice where their children’s education is concerned. It also allows the child to become a more employable adult, as French is the dominant language in Quebec and knowing more than one language improves job prospects overall.

Bill 101 also established French as the language of business. All product labels in Quebec are required to be drafted in French, as are all catalogues, brochures, and commercial directories. The law also requires that standardized contracts be in French, though both parties can agree to draft the contract in another language as well.

Perhaps the most hotly disputed aspect of Bill 101’s commerce rules is regarding signage laws. The law demands that all commercial signage, posters, and advertising be in French. Another language is permitted on commercial signage but only if “French is markedly predominant”.

Over the years these rules have often been used to persecute ethnic and religious businesses such as in 2001 when the Office québécois de la langue française – the office charged with making sure French is the language of commerce, work, and communication in Quebec – went after L. Berson & Fils, a now defunct Jewish funeral monument company in Montreal. Fortunately public outrage forced the government to back down.

In cases where the government proceeds with enforcing Bill 101, penalties range from fines of six hundred dollars and up to being disqualified from holding certain government jobs for a period of five years.

The most dangerous aspect of the law is regarding that of civil administration, specifically with regards to health and social services. Since they are government owned and operated under Canada’s public health care system, hospitals, CLSCs and clinics fall under the same French language requirements.

Though most people working in public health know to provide health and social services in the language to best serve the patient to the best of their abilities, some service providers have been accused of using language laws to refuse people necessary help. Hopital de Verdun, for example, has been accused on many occasions of denying English speakers health services because they cannot speak French.

Though it should go without saying, where a person’s health and safety are concerned, there should be no language barrier.

It should be noted that Bill 101 has been successfully challenged several times in the courts for violating the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights. To prevent further legal challenges, Quebec used the Notwithstanding Clause, a clause in our constitution that allows provinces to keep legislation in place notwithstanding the Charter. Since the court challenges, the law has been tweaked to make it more constitutionally compatible.

Bill 101 is like toothpaste. When applied correctly and in the right place it is a necessary evil to make sure that Quebec society functions despite what comes out of people’s mouths. When used incorrectly and in the wrong place it can be a pain in the ass. It’s up to us to keep challenging the government when they apply the Bill where it doesn’t belong.

There is a racist misogynist money-grubbing cheeto in the White House who has recently and very publicly expressed his sympathy for White Supremacists and Neo Nazis and his contempt for those who fight them. His influence has spread northward to us, emboldening the most morally repulsive people in Canada to come forward and express their desire to see women ground into submissiveness and visible religious and sexual minorities killed.

When these pathetic excuses for human beings face public censure they always cry “free speech”. This article will look at what free speech protections there actually are in Canada and the United States, the laws governing hate speech and propaganda – if any, and the consequences therein.

As the United States is looking like a hotbed of racism, intolerance, and incompetence, let’s start with them.

Free speech protections fall under the First Amendment of the Constitution which says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment protects a wide range of speech no matter how distasteful, untrue, or hateful. Just about any time a city or state passes a law banning hate propaganda of any kind, a First Amendment challenge is brought to the courts.

The Supreme Court of the United States has sided with the hate-mongering petitioners almost every time. As it stands, you could publish or distribute something saying for example, that women or African Americans are stupid and don’t really deserve well-paying jobs and face no criminal legal consequences that would be upheld in a court of law.

In Canada, the situation is very different.

Though Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of thought, belief, and expression, the Canadian Criminal Code has a whole section devoted to censuring hate propaganda. The laws in question prohibit public incitement of hatred and the advocating of genocide against an “identifiable group”. The law carries penalties ranging from a fine to between six months to five years in jail. The law calls an “identifiable group”: “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability.”

The prohibitions on hate speech do have a defense written into them which allows a defendant to beat a charge if they can prove on a balance of probabilities that the statements were true, they in good faith attempted to establish an argument on a religious subject, “the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest” or the person “intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada”.

Our Supreme Court recognizes that laws punishing hate propaganda violate our right to freedom of expression but in R v. Keegstra in 1990 a majority of judges agreed that the violation was justified and therefore constitutional.

James Keegstra was a teacher in Alberta who taught his students that Jews were (among other things) treacherous and child killers. Any students who contradicted his conspiracy theories got their marks docked. He was finally fired in 1982 after four years of complaints. A year later he was charged with promoting hatred. Keegstra was convicted and appealed the conviction.

In their decision, the majority Supreme Court justices said that the law was a proportionally reasonable limit on freedom of expression and that the objective of the law – “to reduce racial, ethnic and religious tension and perhaps even violence in Canada” – was rationally connected to the prohibitions in it.

Keegstra, for his part, remained an unrepentant anti-Semite and holocaust denier until his death in 2014. May he rest in Hell.

Although the United States has no criminal prohibitions against hate speech, there are other ways of censuring hate propagandists. As in Canada, the acts often associated with hate propaganda such as arson, assault, murder, theft, rape, and vehicular homicide are against the law in every state in the union. In addition, victims of hate propaganda can sue for libel, and though lawyers are costly, many in the US will work for the publicity alone.

In Canada, the rules for suing are different as provinces retain jurisdiction over civil law. In Quebec, you can sue for material damages, physical damages – meaning damages to your person, or moral damages – damages to your psyche. The burden of proof is a balance of probabilities and not beyond a reasonable doubt. All you have to do is prove that the hate monger and the propaganda they pushed are at fault for your damages.

Arguments against laws punishing hate propaganda range from the notion that punishing hate speech is being intolerant to the notion that criminalizing hate exacerbates the problem by furthering hate mongers’ narratives of victimhood. While the latter may be true, hate mongers generally adopt a narrative of victimhood regardless of whether there is real persecution or not. With the former, one must look at the paradox of tolerance.

The paradox of tolerance is the notion that part of being tolerant is tolerating intolerance. Historically it’s been proven that tolerance does not necessarily breed tolerance. Tolerance of intolerance all too becomes appeasement of the most evil elements in society, emboldening them further – the lessons of the Second World War and Nazi Germany are the clearest cases of this.

In these troubled times, we need to remember these lessons more than ever, or one day we’ll be the ones run over by a car, or lynched, or gassed.

Just when you thought you had heard the last of xenophobia and hate driving mainstream Quebec politics, they’re back! Or rather, they never left.

I’m well aware that the vicious undercurrent of bigotry in Quebec has only gotten bolder in the past year. There was the attack on the Mosque in Ste-Foy, then there was that Front National copycat poster that went up during the Gouin by-election. Just last week, local members of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant group La Meute were spotted marching with neo-Nazis and the Klan in Charlotteville and now a former organizer of the xenophobic group PEDIGA is looking to start a far-right political party.

When it comes to major Quebec political parties (ones that actually have a chance of being elected), though, it really looked like we were finally beyond hate and fearmongering for votes. After all, electoral Islamophobia had failed twice at the ballot box: there was the electoral disaster the Charter of Quebec Values brought to the PQ and the Bloc’s failed attempt to use Harper’s opposition to the niqab as a wedge issue – sure, it did knock down the NDP, but it helped Justin Trudeau sail to a majority government.

While it’s likely the PQ under the leadership of Charter architect Jean-François Lisée may try a re-branded version of the failed legislation come election time, that would really be an act of desperation. It looks, though, like the party that won a majority in 2014 largely by opposing Pauline Marois on the Charter now plans to one-up her with much more restrictive bigoted legislation.

The Charter on Steroids

In 2015, Philippe Couillard’s Liberals tabled Bill 62, the so-called “religious neutrality bill” which banned people providing government services and those receiving them from covering their faces. It didn’t go as far as the PQ’s Charter in that it focused on one religious symbol, the Niqab or Burqa, and had a limited scope in its application.

That scope may be getting wider if the Liberals have their way. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée wants it to apply to municipalities, metropolitan communities, the National Assembly and public transit organizations and proposed amendments to the bill last Tuesday to make that a reality.

One of the places the Liberals want to ban the burqa (image: Jason C. McLean)

The most jarring aspect is, of course, extending it to public transit. Think about that for a moment:

Not only is being asked to remove a face covering for the duration of a trip on the bus or metro a humiliating experience, it is also something that may very well deny access to public transit to people who need it. Forcing someone to choose between their faith and an essential service that many who live in a city need is just plain wrong.

It is discrimination that serves no valid purpose whatsoever, unless you count getting votes from clueless bigots as a valid purpose.

I have rode on the metro with a woman in a burqa in the next seat several times. It didn’t bother me in the slightest. Just fellow passengers dressed differently than I was. There are frequently people on my commute wearing various religious garb and it is just a part of life here in Montreal. I’m more concerned about the creeps and assholes whose faces are uncovered along with their shitty demeanor.

But, of course, this legislation isn’t designed to appeal to me or my fellow Montrealers. It’s designed to get votes from people in rural ridings, many of whom have never rode public transit with someone wearing a hijab, never mind a burqa, in their lives. Them and a handful of suburbanites and maybe a few big city bigots whose intolerance supersedes their daily experience.

While I rarely give props to Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, on this one I have to. He has announced plans to use the city’s status as a metropolis to not implement the amendments if they pass. I’m pretty sure Projet Montreal would do the same if they were in power.

Regis Labeaume’s False Equivalence

The Mayor of Quebec City, however, seems perfectly content fanning the flames of intolerance.

While Régis Labeaume did say that La Meute was not welcome back to the city he governs after last weekend’s protest, he extended the same sentiments to those who showed up to oppose the hate group’s public display of bigotry and intolerance.

La Meute marching in Quebec City (image: CBC)

If you think that sounds a little too close to a certain Nazi-sympathizing American politician’s much maligned comment about hate and violence existing on “all sides” in Charlottesville, you’re not alone. Jaggi Singh was in Quebec as a participant, not an organizer, but that didn’t stop Labeaume from using “la gang à Singh” as a descriptor for those protesting La Meute.

Singh responded in a Facebook statement which has since been republished by several media outlets. Here’s a excerpt:

“Mayor Labeaume, like Donald Trump, is claiming equivalency between anti-racists — and the varied tactics and strategies we use — and the racist far-right. His false equivalency, like Donald Trump’s after Charlottesville, is absurd. With his comments today, Mayor Labeaume is essentially pandering to racists in Quebec City, repeating a disgusting tactic he has used since he’s been a public figure.

More generally, Mayor Labeaume is replicating the rhetoric of the racist far-right by essentially telling people to “go back to where you came from”. This is the main talking point of far-right anti-immigrant groups, including the racists of La Meute, the Storm Alliance, and Soldiers of Odin, all of whom have a strong presence in Mayor Labeaume’s Quebec City.”

It’s not just a moral false equivalence, though, but a numerical one as well. The counter-protesters clearly outnumbered the La Meute gang, who hid in a parking garage for a good portion of the protest protected by police.

That didn’t stop Labeaume from saying that La Meute had won the popularity contest. Putting aside for a minute the fact that they clearly didn’t, to frame a conflict between hatemongers and those opposed to racism and fascism as a popularity contest shows a clear lack of…oh screw it, the guy’s a grade-A asshole Trump-wannabe who at best panders to racists and doesn’t care about it and at worst is one himself.

Quebec bigots, for the most part, may not be so obvious as to carry around swastika flags like their American counterparts, but they are just as hate-filled and virulent and their mainstream political apologists and supporters like Couillard, Lisée and Labeaume are all too happy to pander for their votes.

La plus ca change…

Montreal Pride is upon us and with it the sights and sounds of people celebrating sexual diversity in an environment that is supposed to be safe and welcoming. Though in Canada we pride ourselves at our enlightenment on issues of sexuality and gender identity, we have still have a long way to go. Before we can move forward, we need to look at our past.

This article will look briefly at the history of LGBTQ struggles in Quebec and Canada, conduct a quick overview of current legislation, and do its best to present a picture of the status quo and what needs to be done to make our country safer and more inclusive.

During the British colonial period, homosexuality, known as “buggery” or “sodomy” was punishable by death. In 1861, the law was eased a bit and the penalty was changed to ten years to life in jail. Anti-gay laws almost always targeted men and the language of laws was kept intentionally vague in order to give huge discretion to law enforcement.

Starting in 1890, gays were generally charged with “gross indecency”, and between 1948 and 1961 changes to the Canadian Criminal Code were made, creating the categories of criminal “sexual psychopaths” and “dangerous sexual offenders”. Instead of persecuting rapists and pedophiles, the changes were disproportionately used to target gays. In addition, Canadian immigration law considered homosexuals an inadmissible class of immigrants.

The gay rights movement in Canada didn’t really gain momentum until the 1960s, when George Everett Klippert, a mechanic from the Northwest Territories, admitted that he was gay and had sex with men. In 1967 he was charged with “gross indecency” and sent to prison indefinitely as a “dangerous sexual offender”.

His conviction was sadly upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

While Klippert was rotting in jail, the British government opted to decriminalize certain homosexual acts. Taking a cue from our Mother Country, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, at the time Justice Minister for Prime Minister Lester Pearson, began pushing the omnibus bill, a bill that would amend the Criminal Code to decriminalize homosexual sex, legalize contraception, and increase access to abortion. When asked about it, Trudeau told the press:

“It’s bringing the laws of the land up to contemporary society I think. Take this thing on homosexuality. I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. I think that what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code. When it becomes public this is a different matter, or when it relates to minors this is a different matter.”

The bill passed in 1969, and two years later, Everett Klippert was released from prison.

In 1977 Quebec passed its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, a quasi-constitutional bit of legislation and the first of its kind to openly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Applicable to both private and public parties, the law bans discrimination in access to public spaces, contracts or refusal to enter into them, housing, and employment on the basis of many grounds including sexual orientation. The Quebec Charter also grants equal recognition, and bans harassment, and the distribution of discriminatory notices, symbols, or signs.

In 1978 Canada’s immigration laws were modified so homosexuals are no longer inadmissible.

In 1992, the ban on gays in the military was lifted. A few years later, in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that same sex couples are entitled to the same benefits and under the same obligations as opposite-sex couples for the social programs they contribute to.

In the summer of 2005, Paul Martin’s government successfully passed Bill C-38, the Law on Civil Marriage, allowing same sex couples the legal right to marry. Attempts by Conservatives to reopen the marriage debate have failed and continue to do so to this day.

Over the years the Canadian Criminal Code has evolved to include “sexual orientation and gender identity or expression” in its definition of hate crimes. The inclusion of gender identity or expression is a recent addition by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Hate crimes include public incitement of hatred, advocating genocide, and willful promotion of hatred, which carry penalties ranging from six months to five years in prison. In addition, sentencing guidelines for the courts now include the obligation to consider aggravating circumstances that could add to a sentence, including evidence that the crime was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on factors that include sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

As it stands, life for Canada’s LGBTQ people is far from perfect. Many members of the LGBTQ community are still denied access to proper health care in Quebec and people are still being fired for being gay or transgender. Though the election of the orange bigot and the rise in hate crimes south of the border has bolstered support for LGBTQ groups, it has also given hatemongers in Canada the confidence to be more open in their hate.

Some Montreal institutions have to deal with homophobia in their recent past. Several groups have been calling on the City of Montreal and the Montreal Police (SPVM) to apologize for violent raids on gay clubs and parties in the 70s, 80s and 90s and just this year Projet Montreal City Councillor Richard Ryan and his party joined them. The raid on Sex Garage in 1990 was what sparked the movement that would ultimately lead to Montreal Pride.

Quebec launched initiatives in 2013 to fight homophobia, however queer people are still glared at in public for simply being themselves. Unfortunately, the one law that would firmly entrench LGBTQ rights – our constitution – still does not include protections for them, and partisan politics and the Quebec notion of us vs them where the rest of Canada is concerned will keep these protections from ever happening.

Protections for LGBTQ people are there but they could be a whole lot better.

This Pride, let’s do what the haters hate most – be out and proud and open and fabulous, while still firmly pushing for those changes Canada so desperately needs.

Niki Ashton is the Member of Parliament for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, Manitoba and one of four candidates currently running to replace Ton Mulcair as leader of Canada’s NDP and take on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next federal election. She is currently garnering quite a bit of support from the party’s grassroots who see her as the most progressive left candidate in the field.

Ashton is in Montreal for a large rally with supporters just three days before the deadline to sign up to be a member of the NDP, which allows you to vote in the leadership election. I spoke with her about how Canada has changed since the last time she ran, the need for real progressive change and not just faux progress and other topics. Plus, we do some political name association:

* Audio recorded and edited by Hannah Besseau

* The Niki Ashton Montreal Rally is tonight, August 14th at 7pm at La Vitrola, 4602 St-Laurent

* To vote in the NDP Leadership Election in October, you need to become a member by August 17th

* You can also vote in FTB’s NDP Leadership Poll

Imagine for a moment, there is a terrorist attack based on ethnic hatred that took place in the heart of America. Now imagine that the President of the United States went on TV and said the victims are just as much to blame as the terrorists. Well, that happened yesterday.

To recap, there was a so-called “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia which ended up being a unite fans of the Confederacy with the KKK and neo-Nazis. I’m not exaggerating. There were flags with swastikas on them. There were Hitler quotes on t-shirts. David Duke was there. And this followed a nighttime march where they carried tiki torches and chanted Nazi slogans.

There was also a counter-protest made up of people from groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter and some who just didn’t think those proud of their racism and hatred should go unchallenged. If hatemongers can use free speech to defend their ignorant, white supremacist views then it’s good that some people are there to point out that this is, in fact, hate speech and fight it.

Then someone rammed a car into the counter protest, killing one and injuring many. If ramming a car into people on foot is terrorism when an Islamic extremist does it in London, then it clearly is terrorism when a white supremacist does it in Virginia.

Eventually Donald Trump, current President of the United States, made a statement:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.”

Um, wait, what? The hatred and bigotry were clearly only on one side in Charlottesville (hint: it’s the people carrying the swastika flags, not those opposing them). The violence, in the form of mowing down people with a car, was only on that side, too.

Groups against race-based police assassination of innocent people and groups opposed to fascism in all of its forms, new and old, are not hate groups, they are defenders of human rights. Nazis, the Klan and their associates are hatemongers and a threat.

That is a simple concept that shouldn’t need someone murdering people with a car to prove. But now, even with a white supremacist terrorist attack, the President is still on the fence.

Things couldn’t be clearer. I’m all for nuance, but this time it’s black and white. The guys with the swastika flags, they’re the bad guys. Those with the confederate flags, they’re associates of the bad guys. If you can’t see this, you are either truly ignorant or so obsessed with not alienating your own base that you don’t care if they are the scum of the earth.

If it’s the latter, at least, for now, you’re presidential material. For the rest of us, it’s another sad day when racists can kill and not be labelled as the terrorists that they are.

On November 5th, 2017, Montrealers return to the polls to determine if Denis Coderre will remain the city’s mayor for the next four years or if new Projet Montréal leader Valérie Plante will get the job. Meanwhile you, Forget the Box readers, can head to our poll right now and pick who you want to see as the next Mayor of Montreal.

The poll closes on November 4th, when we will write an endorsement of the winner on behalf of our readers and publish it the same day, the day before the actual vote. At publication time, there are only two declared candidates for the city’s top job, if more join the list, we will add them as options on the poll and you can, too.

You can also change your vote right up until the poll closes. If we replace this poll in our sidebar with a new one, it will remain active and accessible through this post. Also please feel free to leave a comment as to why you voted the way that you did (but comments don’t count as votes, obviously).

In the meantime, we’ll also be covering the election campaigns to the best of our abilities. Not only the mayoral race, but as many city council and borough mayor races as we can. It’s a big city and an important election, so have your say November 5th, 2017 at the polls and right now in this poll:

Who do you want to see as Mayor of Montreal after the November 5th municipal election?
  • Add your answer

* Featured image via WikiMedia Commons

The sixth mass extinction will hit harder than expected, according to a collaborative study between Stanford and the University of Mexico. 32% of all vertebrate species are steadily decreasing, even if one third of them classify as low concern species.

We already knew that animals and plants are going extinct 100 to 1 000 times faster than what is normal  (and those are the most conservative estimates). If we stay on this course, the general consensus is that around 30% of all species will be gone by 2050. The scientific community went from asking if the next mass extinction is underway to asking if it’s going to be worse than the last one – which, keep in mind, killed most of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Now, researchers say that assessments based on species extinctions, alarming as they may be, might be underestimating the problem. According to the article published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States:

“Our data indicate that beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations [EN: local extinctions], which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.”

This huge study is based on a sample of 27 600 vertebrate species (which is roughly half of them). All of the 177 mammal species among them have seen their natural range significantly shrink, 40% of them have seen their populations decrease by 80% or more.

The article concludes: “we emphasize that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most…”

*Featured image by Robert Young under Creative Commons

Philippe Tanguy, a top executive from the multinational oil corporation Total, is set to become the new director of Polytechnique, and more than a few people are concerned. The school board has recommended Tanguy for the job despite the growing pushback and it’s now up to Education minister Hélène David to give the final and formal approval. The minister’s office only stated that they took notice of the recommendation and cannot comment further until a decision is rendered.

A group of students and employees called the Regroupement de Poly contre Total Éducation (RPCT or Poly Coalition against Total Education in English) argue that their beloved engineering school should not be so tightly associated with a company like Total – which apart from being the actual definition of the frightfully influential Big Oil, has a spectacular record of human rights abuses, environmental disasters and tax evasion.

“We fear that this nomination will publicly associate Polytechnique with a corporation that media and authors criticize and accuse of heavy environmental and human casualties,” pleaded the RPCT in an open letter cosigned by multiple environmental groups, as well as Québec Solidaire and the federal and provincial Greens.

Total: A history of scandal

Total, as one of the seven biggest oil companies in the world, has an unsurprisingly long list of scandals. Their most notable exploits include spilling roughly 20 000 tons of oil in French waters and paying bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq through the infamous oil-for-food program. They were also sued for literally using slaves to build a pipeline in Myanmar in the 90s*. Quebec author and authority on tax evasion Alain Denault recently eviscerated the company in an essay entitled De quoi Total est-elle la somme? in which he describes fiscal shams and political power worthy of the best conspiracy theories.

Tanguy started working for Total in 2009 and he is now one of its Vice Presidents. He is expected to resign to become Polytechnique’s director, but that is not enough to appease the critics.

“To some extent, working that long for a company and getting to such a high position means endorsing the company’s methods,” thinks RPCT spokesperson Philippe Bouchard-Aucoin. “And with Total being Total, … It’s very worrisome to have someone who can have this sort of mentality heading a university.”

One too many footholds for the private sector at Polytechnique

The RPCT is not too happy with Polytechnique being directed by someone from the private sector and even less with that someone being from the oil industry. They urge their school to follow the lead of other universities who have started to distance themselves from the fossil fuel industry, including Stanford, Oxford and even Québec’s Université Laval.

“In Quebec, in Canada and internationally the private sector has an increasingly strong hold on universities and the industry has an increasingly strong influence on research,” remarked Bouchard-Aucoin.

He is not wrong. According to IRIS, the private sector’s share in Quebec universities’ financing has almost tripled in the last 30 years, going from 7,5% in 1988 to 21,5% in 2015.

Philippe Tanguy has made it very clear that he wants Polytechnique to continue down this path. Like many other directors, he has nothing but good things to say about public-private partnerships in research. In fact, it was a vital part of his job at Total as VP for Research and Development. In 2015, Total had more than 800 such contracts with various universities across the world.

But having a director so keen on mixing corporate interests and university research has its dangers, underlines Philippe Bouchard-Aucoin:

“If studies don’t go in a direction [that helps the industry] , will they be done anyway? Will they have a budget? Will professors be able to publish the results of a research made for an oil company if it demonstrates that it’s bad?” questioned the physics engineering student.

He admits that there is very little chance that the Minister rarely, if ever, rejects the school board’s recommendations in such cases. Philippe Tanguy is 99% sure of becoming the new Polytechnique General Director.

The RPCT vows to ”make sure that Total doesn’t meddle with the school’s decisions, and that the oil industry doesn’t edge in Polytechnique; make sure that investments in the industry don’t take up the majority of the school’s investments and that the professors still have an intellectual liberty.”

“There will be a lot of us watching Mr Tanguy’s actions very closely, to make sure that our fears don’t become reality,” promises Philippe Bouchard-Aucoin.

*A previous version of this article stated that Total had to settle a lawsuit in this case, but the truth is more complex. It’s their american partner in the project, Unocal, who had to settle in american courts. Total, a French company, was brought to justice in France and Belgium, but the suits had to be dropped in both cases.

* *Featured image by Laurent Bélanger under Creative Commons

On Wednesday indigenous artists and community organizers lead the festivities across the country. In Montreal, there was the obligatory event at tourist-heavy Place des Arts as well as a celebration in Cabot Square, which is perhaps quainter, but much more organically attached to Native Montreal.

“There is a very strong native presence across the city today, but it just reminds us of the importance of this presence 365 days of the year,” said Quebec minister for Native Affairs Goeffrey Kelley in a short address to the crowd at Cabot Square.

All afternoon, Cabot Square was alive with Hoop dancing, traditional singing and rock music. Spectators could also visit various booths to try their hands at indigenous crafts, stop by the reading tent or buy handmade jewelry or clothes.

Performers from all nations

For Alexandra Loranger, the co-host of the event and a specialist in indigenous rights, celebrating Indigenous Day in Montreal is all about sharing and learning from one another. “It’s important for me to be here today to be able to celebrate my identity and at the same time to discover others,” said the Attikamek jurist, underlining the diversity of the artists present.

Moontee Sinquah and his two sons came all the way from Arizona to open the show with an impressive spectacle of traditional hoop dancing, immediately attracting a supplementary crowd of curious onlookers.

The notorious Buffalo Hat singers continued the show with more traditional music. Aidan Thorne and Antopola performed calmer, more modern sets.

One of the highlights of the show was Kelly Fraser, a young Inuk singer from Nunavut, who brought the crowd to their feet with a pop mixture of English and Inuktitut. The Mohawk group Corey Diabo Band closed the show with a lively rock performance.

“It’s so beautiful to see so much people and so much pride,” commented Aidan Thorne, a Concordia student from the Cowichan First Nation in BC. Thorne, who also goes by the name of Little Fire, describes his music as Canadian soul.

One day a year

For Toronto native and member of the Ojibwe Nation Cedar-Eve Peters, it was beautiful to see all the diverse native cultures represented and celebrated for one day of festivity. It was also a harsh reminder of their unnatural erasure in everyday life.

“Living in Montreal or Quebec, I find that people get more blatant with racism, so when we have events like this it’s great because we have people from all walks of life come through and they are actually genuinely interested in what’s going on,” she said.

Indigenous Day is a rare opportunity for her to sell her own crafts and jewels, while enjoying the various performances of other indigenous people. “It’s a good day to share that knowledge and to keep traditions alive. It’s great, but I don’t know, I feel like there shouldn’t just be one day of the year of recognition. Every day of the year we still exist.”

Alexandra Lorange agrees that there is a lot to be done in the city and the province to keep Native people out of oblivion on the other 364 days:

“I tell myself we’re taking small steps, slowly but surely… but I do think we’re behind and we could do a lot more. We could see [indigenous culture] on a more equal footing, and not from the perspective of a majoritarian society that allows a small moment for native people to be there.”

She believes that the media have to do their part to get there, and start covering indigenous affairs in their entirety, not just their problematic parts. “Today, all the mainstream media – at least on the anglophone side – have received the invitation and they are not here,” she noted, “that’s a real shame, because it’s something very constructive that is happening.”

Jules Beaulieu, who was also selling his own creations in the square, commented on the common erasure of Native history. “I’m here because for me, it is important to remember that indigenous people have been here for a long time. 150 and 375:  that’s European, people have been here for ages,” he remarked, referring to the summer-long celebrations for Montreal’s 375th  and Canada’s 150th anniversaries.

In an effort to reclaim the Native history of Montreal, Marie-Ève Drouin-Gagné from the ethnography lab of the Milieu Institute at Concordia began a project of photovoice in which indigenous users of Cabot Square are invited to tell their own stories about the square through photos and captions: “The idea was also to go with the 375th; saying  this is kind of a colonial narrative. So what about making some space for other narratives that are often untold?”

Today is not National Indigenous Day anymore, but indigenous people are still here. And we should all find a way to keep in mind that their identity is not a Christmas decoration to be put away until next year’s holiday.

Now that we know who the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is (Andrew Scheer), there is one more podium to fill next to Justin Trudeau on the debate stage when Canadians go to the polls in a few years: that of the Federal NDP Leader.

The leadership debates and campaigns are in full swing. While we won’t know who won until late October of this year, we’re giving our readers a chance to weigh in with a new site poll.

If new candidates enter the race or current ones drop out, we’ll update the choices. You can only vote for one option, but you can also change your vote right up until the poll expires on October 29th, so if you’re undecided, please feel free to say so knowing you can change your vote when you do make up your mind.

The winner of our poll gets the official endorsement of FTB readers and a post written on behalf of them. Since this is over four months of voting and we have other polls that will run in that time, it’s possible this poll may disappear from the site sidebar, but it will always be available in this post.

Here it is:

Who do you want to see as the next leader of the Federal NDP?

Of course, if you want to vote in the actual leadership race, you need to first become a member of the NDP

Last week, while everyone was busy looking at that nice picture of Obama and Trudeau amiably chatting it up in Little Burgundy, the government dropped Canada’s new “deliberately ambitious” National Defense Strategy. This includes a 73% increase of the military defense budget over the next ten years and replacement of the CF-18 fleet with 88 advanced fighter aircraft (instead of the 65 planes promised by the Conservatives).

Among all the usual reasons presented by the government for this rather dramatic hike, two stood out: the need to respond to NATO pressure and the need to assume more of a leading role on the international stage in response to the Trump administration’s isolationism.

Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau dining at Liverpool House in Little Burgundy last Tuesday

NATO requests that member states devote 2% of their GDP to national defense and Canada spends little more than half of that. By 2027, Canada’s defense spending will have jumped from $18.9 Billion to $32.7 Billion, which will be 1.4% of the GDP – still too little for NATO, but enough to significantly improve its status.

To be fair, in 2016, only five of the 28 members (The UK, the US, Greece, Poland and Estonia) actually reached NATO’s target. To be quite clear, the pressure to increase spending is coming from the US in particular. Donald Trump scolded NATO leaders last month for not committing more funds.

On the other hand, Trump’s unpredictable behaviour on diplomatic matters is a factor in and of itself.

“The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,” said the minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland.

On Tuesday, while Obama was speaking in Montreal, Freeland presented the new policy to the House of Commons. And just like Obama spoke for an hour and a half about everything wrong with Trump without mentioning him, the Minister clearly depicted Canada’s new defense strategy as a countermeasure to Trump’s unreliability without saying so. This brilliantly written part of her discourse is a perfect example:

“Imagine a Canadian view that says we are safe on our continent, and we have things to do at home, so let’s turn inward. Let’s say Canada first. Here’s why that would be wrong…”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland

She then went on to argue that Canada is facing many threats on the international front, mentioning climate change, but also, the dictatorship in North Korea, “crimes against humanity in Syria, the monstrous extremists of Daesh, and Russian military adventurism.”

Freeland also warned that relying on the umbrella of protection provided by the US would turn us into a client state.

Foreign and security policy analyst Srdjan Vucetic believes Canada increasing its defense spending is inevitable.

“While the demand for spending precedes Trump-induced uncertainties,” he argued, “the latter amplifies, especially in light of Freeland’s speech on Tuesday.”

Vucetic rather liked hearing Freeland admit “that the world is different now that there are no adults in the White House.”

Selling military spending to the Left

The Liberals aren’t forgetting the votes they got on the left of the spectrum in this rightward shift towards militarism. That’s why they’re packaging it as a soft criticism of the Trump Administration, something that is hard for progressives not to support.

Freeland also talked a fair amount about another popular topic on the left: fighting climate change, taking the opportunity to say that “Canada is deeply disappointed by the decision by the US Federal Government to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate.”

It’s logical that increased military spending will improve Canada’s pull on the diplomatic world which is necessary to influence the fight against climate change. However, the Liberal government has given us no reason to believe that they would ever use it to that effect. Despite talking a big game about the environment, they have done just as much for it as the Conservatives.

It wasn’t the only part of the Minister’s discourse that seemed like a diversion tactic meant to appease the Left.

“Now, it is clearly not our role to impose our values around the world. No one appointed us the world’s policeman,” Freeland assured the House of Commons, preemptively echoing potential critics. The statement is a little bit at odds with the very first paragraph of the official policy document praising Canadian military for “working tirelessly to (…) promote Canadian values and interests abroad” and the fact that her own discourse cares to point out how good and honorable Canadian values are.

While “impose” and “promote” are two distinct concepts, they have a way of blending in this particular context, considering no one actually fears Canada “imposing” its values through some sort of coercive force. All this to say that, as nicely as this statement plays to popular criticism, it is again devoid of actual significance.

The Liberals won the elections by playing up the contrast between them and the Conservatives. Instead of acting on that contrast, it looks like they’ve decided to play up their differences with Trump instead.

* Featured image: Canadian CF-18 via WikiMedia Commons