In just over two years, Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante have gone from the seemingly closest of teammates to not even being in the same party let alone the same page.

For those who don’t follow Montreal municipal politics that closely, it’s turning into quite the saga. Like the Star Wars prequels: just as much politics but with better dialogue and no CGI. Though it’s not blatantly obvious at this point who the Emperor is.

I’ll do by best to reacap:

The Story So Far

Two Fridays ago Plante kicked Montgomery out of the Projet Montréal caucus. Why? Montgomery refused to fire a member of her borough staff accused of psychological harassment of other borough employees despite the Comptroller General calling on her to do just that in a report.

The same evening Montgomery posted on Facebook that both she and Plante didn’t have enough evidence to warrant firing someone. She also stressed that she takes harassment very seriously and also made it clear she will continue as Borough Mayor as an independent (for now, though I’m not ruling out her joining another party at some point in the future).

The following Monday, the Plante Administration countered by releasing some of what they know and arguing there was enough evidence to warrant firing. The next day, Montgomery went on CJAD, reiterated her previous stance and said that “this is about silencing a whistleblower in my borough.”

Montgomery was saying that someone looking into irregularities of CDN/NDG funding versus that of other boroughs may have played a part in all of this. Was she implying that the harassment charge was a smokescreen? Was the employee accused of harassment the whistleblower?

I’m not really sure. What I do know is that people are taking sides.

This past Monday, a large and vocal contingent of Montgomery supporters showed up at the Borough Council meeting, where Montgomery effectively called the Comptroller General’s report BS. The three Projet councillors in the Borough, though, were singing a different tune.

Peter McQueen (NDG), Magda Popeanu (CDN) and Christian Arseneault (Loyola) held a press conference before the meeting where they argued that Montgomery was on a “personal crusade” that made it difficult to get actual borough work done. It seems like the two CDN/NDG opposition councillors Marvin Rotrand and Lionel Perez are on the same page as their local Projet colleagues on this matter.

On Tuesday, Plante said, in a statement, that she would be violating Canada’s Privacy Act if she released a confidential labour report, adding: “It is high time Ms. Montgomery stops fabricating stories and creating alternative facts.”

It’s a good time to let you know that I am a longtime Projet supporter and even volunteered in NDG/CDN for a day on the phones to help get out the vote for both Plante and Montgomery. As such, I’m not going to take sides, at least not in this piece.

Instead, I’m going to try and figure out how this will affect the next Montreal Municipal Election, which happens in just under two years time. And, no, I’m not going

CDN/NDG Isn’t the Plateau

Last year longtime Plateau Borough Mayor Luc Ferrandez quit not only his and Plante’s party, but his job as well. Projet didnt miss a beat, replacing him in a by-election, with another guy named Luc to boot.

That’s the Plateau, a borough where Projet won all the City Council and Borough Council seats plus the mayorship three elections in a row. CDN/NDG is a different story.

In 2009 only McQueen won a council seat under the Projet banner. Popeanu joined him in 2013, giving the party a larger presence on the council, but not control of it.

It wasn’t until the 2017 election, when Arseneault and Montgomery won, that Projet held a majority of the council and the mayorship, effectively giving the party control of the borough. Maintaining or building on that lead wasn’t a sure thing with Montgomery on board and becomes an even more uncertain prospect with a different candidate.

In short, giving up control of the most populous borough in the city on purpose two years after you finally got it is not politically expedient in the slightest. Plante either seriously miscalculated (unlikely) or really felt like she had no choice.

Running Without the Team

Montgomery, I suspect, also truly felt like she had no choice. Either that or thought she was calling the Mayor’s bluff by refusing to fire her staffer.

She must know that getting elected to another term will be considerably more difficult without the party apparatus and volunteer base that helped her win the first time around. Not to mention popular councillors like McQueen urging his constituents to check her box as well.

Even if she thought the Plante brand was tarnished in CDN-NDG, being on the same ticket wouldn’t hurt her chances of winning, as people frequently don’t vote along party lines in every box. Going it alone will.

And she will, most likely, be going it alone. Given what Perez, one of the two opposition councillors in CDN-NDG and interim leader of Ensemble Montréal (the former Équipe Denis Coderre) had to say about her, it’s doubtful the Official Opposition would welcome her with open arms (I predict they’ll run Perez as CDN-NDG Borough Mayor, he’s had the job before).

Yes, Montgomery was a public figure with name recognition before the last election and she does have supporters that will board a bus to cheer for her. The question is whether or not they will also canvas, call and get out the vote for her the way the Projet team did and would have done again.

Not Easy to Predict

While people are taking sides now, many had already taken them well before the last election. Projet supporters in the borough will most likely back Plante, the council candidates and whomever they run as Borough Mayor. Newer converts who came into the Projet fold thanks largely to Montgomery, may not.

Projet haters, though, may not latch onto Montgomery, especially if she is running against both her former party and the Official Opposition. She did get elected supporting the Projet platform, which is what most of the party’s haters hate, and her departure from the party had nothing to do with her shifting in policy .

Sure, she could change her tune, but that would seem opportunistic at best and probably wouldn’t help her much. Winning re-election is now a longshot for her, though not an impossible one.

Undoubtedly, Montgomery running again as an independent with a similar platform as that of her former party will hurt Projet’s chances of re-establishing control of the borough. It may, though, benefit the opposition more than it will her.

Plante’s best move right now would be to announce a project or immediate improvement in the borough alongside her city councillors. Something you need the Mayor of Montreal to authorize like more 105 buses.

In the long run, her best move is to pick a Borough Mayor candidate at least as strong as Montgomery was and hope for and work for the best.

This saga isn’t over yet.

American friends, in particular those choosing a Democratic candidate for President, something’s been bugging me about the debates I’ve been watching. It’s the rhetoric attacking Medicare for All.

In particular, it’s the concept that if you don’t make government-funded healthcare just one option among many private options, you will be unfairly taking something away from people. While the impetus for politicians to make such arguments clearly lies in the fear of losing donor money, those who believe their logic most likely do so out of a real fear of losing something they actually need or like.

I suspect it’s due to a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding of how Medicare for All works. With that in mind, I’d like to explain, or Canadian-splain if you will, how Universal Healthcare works here in Canada.

It’s in the Cards

All Canadians are entitled to a Medicare Card. They are issued by the government of the province you live in.

These cards need to be renewed at a minimal cost. The specifics vary from province to province, but they’re all in the same range.

In Quebec, where I live, renewal is every four to eight years and costs $25. If you move to a different province, you have to prove residency to get a new card.

Having lost my card once at the same time I moved, I know all too well that you really have to prove who you are and where you live. Given that your health card also serves as a photo ID for things like voting, it’s good to know that this is a secure system.

It’s Really Quite Simple

With the card, you can walk into any hospital you want and get the treatment you need. There’s no such thing as “out of network” or a “deductible” here.

When it comes to family doctors, you choose the one you want. They still have to accept you as a patient, but your bank balance won’t be a factor.

When you arrive at the hospital or the doctor’s office, they swipe your card, treat you and send the bill to the appropriate provincial government. The provinces administer and directly pay for the healthcare system with the help of transfer payments from the Federal Government, as universal coverage is mandated by the Canada Health Act.

It’s important to note that the cost of procedures the government pays for is standardized here. Given the fact that hospitals in the US can currently charge whatever they want, I get why the prospect of universal coverage may erroneously seem too pricey to many.

What’s Covered and What’s Not

In Canada, Medicare covers everything from AIDS and Cancer treatment and gunshot wounds to non life-threatening stuff like sprained ankles. While medicine you get when in a hospital is covered, prescription drugs you take after aren’t (except for in some cases like people on welfare), but they are considerably less expensive than in the US.

We also don’t cover dental care or surgery considered cosmetic. It’s interesting to note that the Medicare for All plan Bernie Sanders is proposing does cover dental as well as home healthcare and, from the looks of it, a better plan than Canada currently has.

In our recent election, one party, the NDP, was pushing for Universal Dentalcare and prescription drug coverage, but they lost to (everyone outside of Canada’s favourite Liberal) Justin Trudeau. While he’s not for expanding the Canada Health Act, he wouldn’t dare suggest scrapping it, and neither would our most right-wing politicians.

Currently, for stuff like dental, we still have private and workplace insurance. I seriously doubt that if our government started funding dental or pharmacare, people would fear losing their private insurance.

A Different Mindset

That’s because you don’t have to give up any treatment with Medicare for All. If your system turns out anything like ours, the only thing people will lose is the cost.

If people “like their insurance” what they really like is the healthcare they get. And they’ll still get the same healthcare.

Yes, treatment will be prioritized for those who need it most and then for those who arrived first. It’s possible a millionaire will have to wait in line behind a minimum wage worker and someone on welfare if all three require the same care at the same urgency, but that’s how it should be.

When you stop seeing healthcare as a commodity and instead see it as an essential public service, like the fire department or the roads, you’ll realize that you aren’t giving up anything with Medicare for All.

Featured image of a Medicare for All Rally in Los Angeles 2017 by Molly Adams via Flickr Creative Commons

Montreal politics in the 2010s saw quite a bit of change, followed by more change. The city had five mayors in ten years.

The decade kicked off with the final two years of Gérald Tremblay’s twelve year reign as Mayor. By November 2012, though, the Quebec corruption scandal had engulfed many of his closest associates, meaning he had to resign before his term was up.

While Tremblay may have avoided any personal repercussions for the crooked business-as-usual approach Montreal and Quebec were famous for, his successor Michael Applebaum wasn’t so lucky. Applebaum was arrested at City Hall just over seven months into his term as Interim Mayor and was subsequently (March 2017) sentenced to a year in prison March for bribery and extortion that happened when he was Borough Mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Enter Laurent Blanchard, temporary replacement mayor for the temporary replacement mayor. He had one job: not get arrested for six months until the election and he pulled it off! Great job M. Blanchard.

2013: Time for Change?

Mélanie Joly (photo Valeria Bismar)

The stage was set for 2013. In one corner, former Liberal Cabinet Minister Denis Coderre leading the cleverly named Équipe Denis Coderre, a group largely comprised of former team Tremblay members (the ones who weren’t arrested). In the other, Projet Montréal, still led by its founder Richard Bergeron.

That was the case until political upstart Mélanie Joly entered the fray with her newly formed Vrai changement pour Montréal party. Joly’s energy and political skill helped her overcome accusations that she was only using this run as a springboard to federal politics and that it was all about her, not her team.

She finished second to Coderre in the mayoral race, only six points down, but her party was fourth in the seat count, way behind Coderre’s team and Projet Montréal and also with less representation than Marcel Côté’s Coalition Montréal. Joly quit municipal politics shortly thereafter and ran federally for the Liberals two years later. She is currently our Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie.

As for Projet, they held the Plateau and Rosemont boroughs and made significant gains elsewhere, most notably taking all but the Borough Mayor’s seat in the Sud Ouest (until Benoit Dorais eventually decided to join his councillors).

Denis “Cut the Mic” Coderre

For the next four years, though, Denis Coderre was running the table. And he had no problem reminding everyone of that fact whenever he felt he needed to or just wanted to:

  • Car sharing service downtown? Use the power the Mayor has as the defacto Bourough Mayor of Ville Marie to block it and admit it’s because of personal support from the taxi industry.
  • Montreal’s turning 375? Time to spend a ton of money on random stuff like granite tree stumps and a national anthem for a borough where support for the administration is strong.
  • A dog (that wasn’t a pit bull) attacks someone? Ban all pit bulls.
  • Someone brings up valid points about the pit bull ban? “Cut the mic!
  • Flooding in the West Island? Pull rescue workers off the job for a photo op.
  • Opposing federal party installs a community mailbox? Personally take a jackhammer to it. (Okay, that one was kinda cool)
  • Formula E organizers want the race to go through city streets even though there’s a perfectly good racetrack to use? Do their bidding, disrupt people’s lives and try to make the event look like a success with free tickets.

That last one, honestly, probably cost him re-election more than anything else. Yes, the Coderre era, brief as it was, ended.

Valérie Plante and a New Direction

On November 5, 2017, Valérie Plante, who was never supposed to have defeated former PQ Cabinet Minister Louise Harel for a council seat, was the underdog in the Projet Montréal leadership race and an extreme longshot to take down Coderre at the beginning of the campaign, became Montreal’s first elected female mayor. Her party also took control of not only City Council but also several bouroughs including CDN/NDG, the city’s largest.

Right out of the gate, Plante and her team undid two of Coderre’s most unpopular decisions: the pit bull ban and the prospect of a second Formula E race running through Montreal’s streets. They also recently overturned in council the Tremblay-era changes to bylaw P-6 which had previously been overturned by the courts in 2016 and 2018.

Plante and her team also voted early on to ban calèche horses, a law that goes into effect tomorrow. So they’re starting the new decade with a promise even Coderre tried to deliver on but failed.

One of Plante’s most controversial moves was the pilot project to bar private cars from using the mountain as a shortcut. They ultimately decided not to make it permanent after respondents to the public consultation process they had set up overwhelmingly rejected it (personally I thought it was a good idea that didn’t go far enough).

That decision to listen to the public most likely played into longtime Plateau Borough Mayor and Projet Montréal heavyweight Luc Ferrandez resigning. Earlier this year, he stepped down saying he thought his party wasn’t willing to go far enough for the environment.

For years, Ferrandez had been successful in the Plateau but harmful to his party in other parts of the city. Now, Plante and Projet’s opponents don’t have the Ferrandez albatros to contend with and his replacement Luc Rabouin handily retained power for the party in the borough.

This doesn’t mean Plante and company didn’t make mistakes in their first two years. They haven’t properly dealt with ongoing problems like systemic racism in the Montreal Police Force (SPVM) and in our institutions, the for-profit authoritarian leanings of our transit system and its ticket enforcer cops or adequately challenged the CAQ Provincial Government’s bigoted Bill 21, something Montrealers, by and large oppose, despite support in the rest of Quebec.

There are also some self-made mistakes like cancelling plans to rename a street in the Sud Ouest after the late Daisy Sweeney or the idea of naming the Griffintown REM train stop after former PQ Premier Bernard Landry. The latter an idea that didn’t need to be floated to begin with and should have been withdrawn after public outcry from the historic Irish community.

Plante was, however, successful, in securing funding for some of her signature campaign promise, the Montreal Metro Pink Line. In particular, the western portion that will travel above ground.

If the Pink Line starts to see the light of day and Plante fixes or starts to fix the problems I just mentioned, she’ll be on her way to another term. She has two years.

So, will the next decade be as bumpy on the Montreal political scene as this past one was? I honestly don’t know, I don’t have 2020 vision.

Featured Image by Jason C. McLean

Adapted from Eileen Atkin’s 1994 play of the same name, Vita and Virginia is based on the real-life romance between aristocratic socialite and author Vita Sackville-West and literary icon Virginia Woolf. With a scandalous romance, the glamour of the 1920s, and famous works of literature, Vita and Virginia’s story in the right hands could have been a very special film. Unfortunately, despite some strong acting and beautiful cinematography, this film is an uneven mess that never quite comes together.

When we first meet Vita (Gemma Arterton) it’s hammered into us that she’s a thoroughly modern woman; she drives her own car, wears pants, declares proudly that “Independence has no sex.” When Vita goes to a party hosted by, as her mother (Isabella Rosselini) describes,  “bohemian communist socialists” that she meets the elusive Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki). 

It’s made clear from their first meeting that their relationship will be a sexual one; Vita observes Virginia dancing from across the room with a decidedly male gaze. Virginia, as the object of desire, acknowledges that gaze and welcomes it.

Arterton and Debicki do what they can to save the film with their performances. Arterton is more than capable of showcasing the charm and insatiable lust of Vita, who while in an open marriage, had affairs with both men and women alike. And Debicki (who should have broken out after the criminally under-seen Widows) gives the strongest performance in the film. She is so good here she makes you forget all about a certain Australian actress who won an Oscar for portraying the same woman.

But despite these performances, the film falls apart under the direction of Chanya Button. While the melodic electro score (by Isobel Waller-Bridge) is beautiful and perhaps meant to show these women were not of their time, it takes you out of the story. The same goes for the decision to have the women read their letters to each other aloud while looking directly at the camera. It’s overly stagey and completely unnecessary. 

And then there’s the magical realism that’s thrown in to show Virginia’s increasingly unstable mental state. If it had been used all throughout the film perhaps it would have made more sense, but only used a few times it doesn’t work. Not to mention that Debicki is a more than capable performer who could have showcased Virginia’s bipolar disorder without a scene where a flock of birds who aren’t really there attack her.

The real-life Vita and Virginia continued a friendship long after their romance fizzled, until Virginia’s death in 1941, which for some reason, Button decided not to mention in the final title card was a suicide, although Virginia talks about death throughout the film.

Their relationship inspired one of Virginia’s most popular books, Orlando. If you’re curious about these fascinating women and their influence on each other, I recommend you read that book (or see the 1992 Tilda Swinton film adaptation) instead.

J. J. Abrams, you had one job…and you pulled it off. The Rise of Skywalker is both an epic end to the nine film Skywalker Saga that hits all the right emotional punches and at the same time a visually stunning and fun movie that works as a cap to the current trilogy’s character arcs.

Well, not completely in regards to the current trilogy, but more on that later. For now, let’s dive in with a MAJOR SPOILER WARNING in full effect:

Rey and Emperor Palpatine

Star Wars in general, and the Skywalker Saga in particular, has always been, at least at the highest levels, about good versus evil, or more specifically the Jedi versus the Sith. In The Rise of Skywalker, we get all the Jedi, through Rey (Daisy Ridley) finally destroying all of the Sith in the form of previously dead Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).

McDiarmid delivers as always and fully embodies absolute evil and Rey is finally paired with an opponent who matches her albeit newly confirmed importance in the Force. The big reveal that she is his granddaughter makes sense and adds to the finale.

Her choice at the end to go by the name Skywalker delivers the right emotional punch to cap off nine movies. At the same time, Ridley’s performance was on point and helped Rey’s character arc come to a solid completion.

If these story choices sound like “too much fan service” as I have seen in other posts, well, I’m a fan and feel properly served. It’s the only way this saga should have ended.

I saw the movie on the preview night and I’m still thinking about it. That’s what Star Wars should do.

Farewell Leia

This movie was also the end of Leia’s story. In fact, it was originally supposed to involve the Princess turned General quite a bit, a task that seemed next to impossible to accomplish after the incomparable Carrie Fisher passed away.

Yet, with just a bit of unused footage from The Force Awakens, one use of a body double and some seriously clever scripting and shooting, Abrams was able to make Leia a major character in this movie. Honestly, her inclusion only looks slightly off twice.

He also gave Leia’s character a proper farewell. While it was doubly sad given that Fisher is no longer with us, it really worked.

Kylo or Ben, Doesn’t Matter

The only major arc I really didn’t buy was Kylo Ren’s redemption story.  To be honest, I never really liked him as a villain or as a match for Rey.

She’s way out of his league both in terms of Force powers and romantically. That kiss was cringy (and I’ve seen Empire), but at least she got to defeat Palpatine on her own.

Ben getting closure with his parents was good, and the Harrison Ford cameo was cool and probably cost Disney a ton of cash. He didn’t need closure with Rey, though.

Fast and Funny

The comedy was on point. This movie managed to bring the humour that is integral to any good Star Wars film.

You even got the feeling that you were in the middle of a comedic adventure story. New characters, aka old characters, like Lando (Billy Dee Williams) just melded in. The best comedic moment coming when Leia asked the random resistance fighter to be more positive.

Sure, it was juxtaposed with all the epic drama, but it seemed properly balanced. My only complaint would have to be that some of it seemed rushed.

I Now Like The Last Jedi Less

It seems like the only major problems I have with this movie are actually issues with the last Star Wars Skywalker Saga Film The Last Jedi. While I may have been in the camp that approved of Rian Johnson’s entry in the franchise, I now see how much better this movie could have been if the last one had been different.

In particular, the ex-stormtrooper crew we first meet near the end of the film and Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) and Babu Frik who we meet soon before are very interesting characters. If we had met them during TLJ instead, those parts might not have seemed so rushed here.

Also, all that Force Skyping between Rey and Kylo really seemed cheesy under Johnson’s direction, but here, it works. Hell, they even have a lightsaber fight without even being in the same room.

J.J. solved the problems that persisted from the previous entry and delivered what I would consider to be the best entry in the current trilogy and a solid end to the saga.

Job well done!

The moment we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. America’s greatest conman, Donald Trump, the narcissist-in-chief has finally been impeached. While many people are celebrating, thinking this will be the end of the Orange Racist’s term as president of the United States of America, I’m sad to say that these celebrations are premature and I’ll tell you why.

This article is going to give you a crash course on the American impeachment process. Though impeachment can be brought against the president, vice-president, as well as any civil officer in the United States, for the purposes of this article I’ll focus on impeachment of a sitting president.

It should be said right off the bat that impeachment does not guarantee a president will be kicked out of office. It’s just a formal charge of misconduct against the president – kind of like a criminal indictment. Removing a president from office comes later, if at all.

Here’s how it works.

The power to Impeach is vested in the House of Representatives (hereafter, “the House”), one of two houses making up the US Congress – the federal legislative body in America, the other being the Senate. If the president is suspected of misconduct, the House of Representatives holds an inquiry.

Those massive hearings in Congress you saw on the news before the impeachment? That was the inquiry.

If the House decides there is sufficient evidence, any one member can draft articles of impeachment – which is a list of charges against the president. It is then up to the House to approve or reject the articles of impeachment by a simple majority vote. If a majority in the House votes in favor of impeachment, the president is impeached.

After the president is impeached, the case goes to Senate which holds a sort of trial presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Senate acts a jury of sorts, each side can present witnesses, and the president can choose to be represented by his own lawyer if he wants.

At the end of the trial the Senate votes – with a two thirds majority or 67 votes required to remove a president from office. If the Senate votes in favor of removal, the president is removed from office and loses any and all privileges and immunities he had while president and the vice-president would have to take his place in office.

So how does this all play out now?

The House – largely controlled by the American Democratic Party – brought two articles of impeachment against the forty-fifth president of the United States: obstruction of Congress, and abuse of power, though in theory they could have added violation of the Emoluments Clause in the US constitution – an anti-corruption clause that prohibits foreign interference in American federal government – given the whole Russia thing.

On Wednesday a majority in the House voted to impeach Cheeto-Head – so now Donald Trump is impeached.

The case will now go to the Senate for trial. Presiding over said trial will be Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court John Roberts, a staunch Conservative appointed by George W. Bush and who is reputed to dislike the current president intensely. Once evidence is presented and witnesses are heard, the Senate will have to vote on whether or not to remove the president from office.

Historically we’ve seen presidents impeached before only to have the Senate vote to keep them in office. The most notable example being Bill Clinton, who was allowed to finish out his term despite being impeached, officially for lying to Congress during the Lewinski scandal.

Unfortunately the Senate is currently controlled by the president’s own political party – the Republican Party of the United States. Though there are people within the party who dislike the current president and the racist fascist direction the party is going in, most Republicans seem content to have any one of their own in office – even a bumbling rapey narcissistic whiner like Donald Trump. Among those happy to keep Trump in office is Senate Majority Leader and Republican Senator, “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, so-called because of his own corrupt ties to the Kremlin.

Alex Pareene of The New Republic wrote an article on McConnell called The Nihilist in Chief. In it, Pareene describes him as a cold-blooded opportunist who will side with anyone within his party who won’t touch his money or chances of re-election.

McConnell’s previous claims to fame include blocking Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, and stalling progressive legislation to death in the Senate. It is people like Moscow Mitch McConnell and Cheeto-Head’s die-hard acolytes in the Senate that will unfortunately determine whether or not the most corrupt president in history will be removed from office.

If the Senate miraculously has a change of heart and votes to remove Trump from the presidency, vice-president Mike Pence will become president. It must be noted that Mike Pence is even less progressive than Trump, given Pence’s well-known homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny masquerading as evangelical Christianity. It is very likely that should Mike Pence assume the office of president following Trump’s removal, the human rights violations carried out by the current administration would likely continue.

The trial of the forty-fifth president will likely begin in the New Year. Whatever the outcome, it is unlikely to change the current state of American politics for the better.

Featured Image: Painting by Samantha Gold

December 12th, 2019 was a sad day for visible minorities in Quebec. The Quebec Court of Appeal denied the application to suspend certain sections of the Laicity Act aka Bill 21 until the Superior Court decides on their constitutionality.

A lot of eyes were on the Quebec Court of Appeal in anticipation of this ruling. Some in favor of Bill 21 even tried to undermine the court by questioning the impartiality of the chief justice, Nicole Duval Hesler. Among them were historian and Dawson College professor Frédéric Bastien, who publicly argued ten days before the ruling that Hesler could not be impartial because she has spoken in favor of multiculturalism and religious accommodation.

While most people would consider Hesler an enlightened judge, her critics cried bias, going insofar to file a complaint against her with the Canadian Judicial Council, the body responsible for ensuring the quality of judicial services in Canada.

The authors of the law knew that Bill 21 could not withstand a legal challenge by an objective court. It’s why they wrote the Notwithstanding Clause into the law, and why in anticipation of the Court of Appeal’s decision, they attempted to undermine its chief justice.

Turns out the bigots were wasting their time questioning Hesler’s impartiality, for while Hesler voted to grant the appeal, she was overruled by her fellow judges. In the 2-1 decision, the court decided that the Notwithstanding Clause written into the law made suspension of articles within it impossible until the Superior Court gave their own ruling on its constitutionality.

Now let’s talk about the Court of Appeal decision.

The ruling was the outcome of an appeal of a Superior Court decision rendered on July 18, 2019. The plaintiff in this case is Ichak Nourel Hak, a student scheduled to complete her Bachelor of Education this winter. She hoped to teach high school French in Quebec, but the passing of Bill 21 last June made that impossible.

The law bans many public service employees – including teachers – from wearing religious symbols while working. Hak wears a hijab, and the law as it stands only allows existing employees who wear such symbols to keep their jobs.

New hires and people seeking a promotion would have to remove the signs of their faith in order to work. As it stands, and in spite of the teacher shortage in Quebec, many people have found their job offers rescinded or their applications denied since the enactment of Bill 21.

Hak and three other groups, among them the English Montreal School Board and the Canadian Council of Muslims, are all working to challenge the law in court, but until those challenges are heard and decided, the law remains in effect.

Hak went to the Superior Court seeking an injunction to suspend articles 6 and 8 of the Laicity law until the constitutional challenges were decided.

Article 6 prohibits certain public employees from wearing religious symbols. It also defines religious symbols as all objects, especially clothing, symbols, jewelry, accessories and headgear worn with religious conviction or belief, as well as anything that could be considered religious clothing. Article 8 requires that members or employees of public institutions carry out their duties with their faces uncovered, and that anyone wishing to receive government services must uncover their faces in order to receive them – a clear reference to the Niqab worn by some Muslim women. Though the Laicity Law is supposed to apply to everyone equally, experts agree its effects will be felt mostly by Muslim women in Quebec.

The Superior Court refused to suspend these parts of the law because of the Notwithstanding Clause written into it. The Quebec Court of Appeal maintained that decision.

So what is the Notwithstanding Clause and why can it affect a provincial court decision?

All laws in Canada, be they provincial or federal, are subject to the Constitution, which takes precedence over all other laws. Included in the Constitution is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Laws that violate the Constitution can be challenged in court, and in the case of a successful challenge, struck down. In order to avoid such challenges, governments can use the Notwithstanding Clause.

The Notwithstanding Clause is section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is written into our constitution to allow governments, provincial and federal, to enact laws that violate sections seven to fifteen of the Canadian Charter – sections referring to equality, freedom from discrimination, and the rights of the accused in criminal cases – provided they indicate within the law that it applies notwithstanding the Charter.

The Clause is not, however, the great block to legal challenges Premier François Legault makes it out to be, as it’s only valid for five years. At the end of the five year period, the National Assembly can let it expire thus opening it to new legal challenges, or they can renew it by another act of parliament.

The five-year limit allows for governments to change and in cases where a law has been struck down by the courts, it can buy governments time to keep the law in effect while they rewrite the law so that it conforms to the Charter.

Any legal challenges to the Laicity law will either have to wait for the five years to expire, or find ways around the Notwithstanding Clause to successfully challenge the law. Current challenges include, but are not limited to:

  • That the law violates section 28 of the Canadian Charter guaranteeing equal treatment before the law of males and females given that the law disproportionally affects women. In the past, section 28 has only been used to interpret laws, not challenge them.
  • That the law criminalizes the wearing of religious symbols in certain professions and therefore is unconstitutional on jurisdictional grounds as it was enacted by a provincial government when only the Federal government can enact criminal legislation
  • The law is too vague

The Court of Appeal was not there to render a decision on the Laicity law’s merits. It was there to decide whether or not the law allowed them to suspend certain parts of the law until its merits are decided by another court.

The Court of Appeal recognized that the Laicity Law causes harm to the people it affects, especially women. It recognized that the grounds for the legal challenges – set to be heard by the Superior Court in October 2020 – have merit. It refused to suspend the law until those challenges are heard and decided, stating that the use of the Notwithstanding Clause tied their hands at this stage.

Until the actual challenges to the Laicity law are heard and decided, do not lose hope. Be an open and vocal critic of François Legault and his government and step between those using the law as an excuse to harass and assault innocent people.

Support movements like “Non à la Loi 21” and wear one of their buttons with pride. Show solidarity with Quebec’s religious minorities and laugh openly and loudly at people who defend the law as anything but the legalized bigotry it is.

The fight is not over until we say it is. So keep fighting.

Featured Image of the Quebec Court of Appeals building in Montreal by Jeangagnon via WikiMedia Commons

Anne + is a web series where Anne (Hanna van Vliet) has just moved into her first grown-up apartment after graduating university in Amsterdam. While out on an errand, she runs into her ex-girlfriend and first love Lily (Eline van Gils). The encounter makes her ruminate on her ever-evolving dating life since their break up four years earlier.

Split into six stories running about ten minutes each, the episodes explore how all of Anne’s relationships have helped define the person she has become. While the main character is queer, the relationship issues she experiences are universal; your first big romance fizzling out, falling in love with someone who just wants to be casual (or the other way around), being attracted to someone’s wild personality but then getting overwhelmed by it.

The series is run by Maud Wiemeijer and Valerie Bisscheroux, two Dutch lesbians who wanted to create more authentic media for queer women. And in that goal they absolutely succeed; although your window into each of Anne’s relationships is brief, they feel real and lived in. And each episode builds off the last so, by the end, you really feel like a world has been created.

My personal favourite episode was Anne+ Esther, where she has an affair with an older boss. After a devastating infatuation with a woman who didn’t love her back, Anne is giddy sleeping with Esther (Kirsten Mulder). She’s getting off on the secrecy of it all and assumes Esther just wants to keep things casual. Especially since she’s already in an open but committed relationship with someone else. But when she discovers that’s not the case, now it’s Anne’s turn to let someone down. 

The series really works because of the appeal of its lead, Hanna van Vliet. She’s a character you immediately root for, even when she dumps sweet Lily for wild Janna, or feels no shame about sleeping with her married boss.

While there are a few supporting characters that show up throughout the season like her friends Casper (Alex Hendrickx) and Jip (Jade Olieberg) it’s mostly Anne who carries this show, and van Vliet does easily. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Anne’s exploits (they’re currently filming season two) in the future. 

You can watch all of the Anne + episodes (some of the episodes already have subtitles, other episodes you have to fiddle with the settings) on the show’s official English website

Swedish filmmaker Levan Akin’s third feature And Then We Danced is about sensitive dancer Merab (real-life dancer Levan Gelbakhiani making an impressive acting debut) coming to terms with his homosexuality in the conservative, hyper-masculine world of Georgian dance. While that may sound like a giant bummer, the film manages to retain a sweet optimism throughout. 

When we first meet Merab, his dance instructor is chastising him for being ‘soft’. It’s clear that while Merab is extremely passionate about dance, he doesn’t quite fit in this world. He’s too expressive with his movements, too sensual.

But still, Merab is desperate to please. He comes from a long line of dancers and despite his father’s warnings that the profession can destroy you, wants to take it seriously.

Merab’s life changes when newcomer Irakli (Bachi Valishivili) arrives. Irakli is brash, talks back to the instructor, and immediately becomes a rival for dance numbers.

They eventually do become friends, and then more, when members of the dance troupe go away together for the weekend. I mean who wouldn’t want to experiment with their sexuality when you’re drinking wine and dancing to Robyn shirtless in the woods? 

Lesser films would have focused solely on the melodrama of Merab and Irakli’s ill-fated romance. Yes, Merab is devastated at how it works out, but the story isn’t focused on that.

The real focus is about how that experience helps him become the man he’s truly meant to be: He meets some new like-minded friends and has an epic night out. He’s able to come clean to his longtime dance partner/sort-of girlfriend Mary (Ana Javakishvilli) about who he really is.

But most importantly, Merab dances the way he wants to dance, not the way his instructors have tried to drill into him. There’s no big Flashdance moment where Merab impresses the dance company so much they completely change their minds about him, but as he walks offscreen for the last time, you can’t help but feel it’s off to a much better future.

An adaptation of Fiona Shaw’s novel, Tell it to the Bees has plenty going for it. There’s a strong cast, led by Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger, beautiful Scottish countryside locations, and dreamy period costumes.

While there’s nothing revolutionary here (small-town people were prejudiced in the 20th century!), for most of the film the story works. That is until the unfortunate third act, where the screenwriters lean into the outdated cliche that a story like this can only end in tragedy and sadness.

At the beginning of the film, we’re introduced to a grown-up Charlie (voiced by Billy Boyd, heard but never seen) as he reflects on growing up in Scotland in the 1950s. There we meet young Charlie (Gregor Selkirk) who’s being bullied at school. After a fight with his schoolmates, Charlie is brought to the local doctor by family member Annie (Outlander’s Lauren Lyle).

It is here Charlie meets Dr. Jean Markham (Paquin) who has just inherited her father’s medical practise and estate. Sensing that Charlie needs more than just medical care, she befriends the young lad, eventually becoming friends with his mother Lydia (Grainger) as well.

Both Lydia and Jean aren’t new to town gossip: Lydia is in the middle of splitting up with Charlie’s dad Rob (Emun Elliot) and Jean left town many years earlier after she was caught kissing another woman.

As Lydia and Jean’s relationship progresses, especially after Lydia becomes Jean’s housekeeper and she and Charlie move into Jean’s house, the town becomes increasingly hostile towards them. But even so, the two women find themselves falling in love.

Paquin and Grainger have excellent chemistry together; their scenes are without a doubt the highlight of the film. When they do finally consummate their relationship, it’s a moment that both feels earned and is very sexy without getting too Blue is the Warmest Color.

And then the unfortunate third act arrives. A film that spent most of its time being a gentle love story suddenly has moments of rape, domestic violence, and a scene where Annie is forced to get an abortion after her family discovers she’s gotten pregnant by a coloured man.

There was no reason for this horrific scene except to ramp up the melodrama and it feels really forced. Eventually, Jean and Lydia are separated for good, and as an audience member, we’re left wondering why we spent time investing in this relationship in the first place.

Tell it to the Bees plays at Université Concordia Cinéma Alexandre de Sève on November 24th as part of IMAGE+NATION and is available to watch on Netflix.

Returning for its 32nd edition, the LGBTQ Film Festival Image+Nation will be running from November 21st to December 1st in downtown Montreal.

“As we live through times of social change in the world, image+nation 32 proudly brings new films from countries that share stories through LGBTQ cinema’s newest voices,” states Programming Director, Katharine Setzer, “with an emergence of exciting Eastern-European filmmaking, the cream of local talent, and even a pioneering Guatemalan production, this year, more than ever, we’re bringing the best new and innovative storytelling to Montreal.”

Below are five films that I’m looking forward to seeing at this year’s festival.

This is Not Berlin

Hari Sama’s semi-autobiographical epic of adolescence in 1980s Mexico City. Outsider Carlos (Xabiani Ponce De León) finds his life changed when he gets swept up in a punk-filled world of sexual liberty and drugs. Navigating the storms of his sexual awakening in the process, Carlos finds himself faced with a choice; the comforting inclusiveness of popularity, or being true to himself.

Tell it to the Bees

Charlie, a young boy in 1950s Scotland befriends the new doctor in town, Dr. Jean Markham. Concerned about this relationship, Charlie’s recently single mother Lydia confronts the doctor.

When she subsequently falls on hard times, Dr. Jean invites her to come work for her and live in her home. While Lydia begins as Dr. Jean’s cleaning lady, the relationship quickly becomes something more when the women realize their undeniable chemistry.

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

This documentary explores how 1980s horror films, in particular Nightmare on Elm Street, were in part a backlash against Reagan conservatism and the terrors of the AIDS epidemic.

The Prince

Based on a pulp novel, this 1970s homoerotic prison drama follows Jamie, a new inmate who gets the nickname “The Prince” by an older inmate he forms a friendship with.

Vita and Virginia

A fictionalized version of the real-life romance between London socialite and popular author Vita Sackville-West and literary icon Virginia Woolf.

Image+Nation runs November 21 through December 1, tickets and full schedule available through image-nation.org

Last Saturday during Coaches’ Corner, a Canadian hockey icon went a step too far. On Hockey Night in Canada, Don Cherry went on the following rant:

“You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that”

Many immediately demanded Cherry’s head on a platter. Others railed against his co-host Ron McLean for putting his thumb up and saying nothing, when the latter is clearly paid to stay silent while Cherry runs his mouth. In a surprising show of good sense and solidarity with its viewers of color, Rogers and Sportsnet did a very brave thing: they fired him.

The result of his firing has led to praise by many, but if you look at the comments sections of the social media accounts of The Montreal Canadiens and others that announced his dismissal, you see Cherry being defended against evil “SJWs” who are allegedly punishing him for “telling it like it is”.

The problem with these comments?

They mostly come from whites.

They come from white Canadians, and in the cases where immigrants weighed in, many of them were white, and therefore benefited from white privilege. As a woman of color, I fully acknowledge that I am jeopardizing my safety by coming forward with my opinion about this, as many online trolls are also known for doxxing and inciting hatred against women and visible and sexual minorities.

But what I have to say HAS to be said, because there are many Canadian voices of color who have been drowned out by a chorus of vitriolic white hockey fans.

So who am I to call out a Canadian icon?

I’m Montreal-born daughter of a first generation Filipino immigrant. My grandfather served with the Americans in the Philippines against the Japanese in World War 2.

On my father’s side my ancestors are Eastern European Jews who immigrated in the 1910s. My great grandfather’s garment company made the uniforms for Canadian soldiers during the Second World War.

Being half-Asian, I can occasionally pass for white, but I am also regularly mistaken for Indigenous and Latina. Saying I’m Canadian often isn’t enough for a lot of white people I meet who will give me the “What are you REALLY?!” question, as if determining the true nature of my ethnicity will somehow affect how I’m treated.

Don Cherry did not explicitly call out immigrants of color. Nevertheless, every person of color knows that when an elderly white person (Cherry is 85) uses the words “you people” to call out immigrants, they are not referring to white immigrants. As many others have pointed out, most Canadians don’t think of whites when they think of immigrants because their skin color gives them the luxury of blending in with the majority.

I do not always have that luxury. My maternal family does not have that luxury. My black and Asian and many of my Middle Eastern friends do not have that luxury.

It’s not just that he painted all immigrants with the same brush and implied that they are somehow ungrateful to be here.

If there’s one group that understands sacrifice and gratitude almost as much as our veterans, it’s immigrants. Most immigrants abandoned lives they knew to come here, either because their safety was being threatened back home, or because they lacked opportunities where they were from.

As an ex-immigration law firm employee and a journalist, I can vouch for the fact that the Canadian immigration process isn’t easy. It’s often lengthy and expensive and the judges hearing refugee cases often go into hearings looking to find any excuse to refuse the applicant before them (see my 2016 article on how refugee claims are decided).

Cherry also inadvertently gave a voice and became a figurehead for the most racist and xenophobic members of Canadian society. The ones who believe that refugee claimants are somehow draining public resources and think that Muslim immigrants are out to convert everyone to their religion. He became a hero for people who yell “Go back to your country!” to Canadians of color, many of whose families have been here for generations and may very well include veterans of the Great Wars.

It must also be said that at the end of the day wearing a poppy is part of our freedom expression as Canadians and unlike Don Cherry’s comments, choosing to wear one or not is not determinant of one’s value as a Canadian. There are lots of ways to honor and support our veterans that do not include inciting hate or pinning on a plastic flower.

So let’s recognize Don Cherry for what he is: Canada’s racist grampa who should finally be retired and ignored.

Featured Image: Painting by Samantha Gold

Québec solidaire MNA Catherine Dorion has been in the news quite a bit over the past couple of weeks. And it all has to do with her wardrobe choices.

Known for wearing what many call casual clothing when on the floor of the National Assembly, the elected official for Taschereau decided to flip the script for Halloween. She posted a photo of herself dressed in business attire, the common go-to look for MNAs, on her Facebook page as her Halloween costume.

It was a clever move and all in good fun. Of course it drew the ire of incredibly vulgar and mysoginistic trolls online, but it also drew official condemnation from the Quebec Liberal Party.

They took issue with the fact that she was sitting on the Speaker’s desk in the photo and wanted an official inquiry (while really wanting relevance for their failing brand). But that wasn’t the outfit choice that got Dorion in trouble.

Denied the Right to Represent Her Constituents

Fast-forward to yesterday. Dorion showed up at the National Assembly to represent her constituents as she was elected to do. She was wearing a hoodie, a fact that is only relevant because some as of yet unknown MNAs complained to the Speaker and she was kicked out of the Blue Room, the room she needs to be in to discuss and vote on laws.

According to Deputy Speaker Chantal Soucy:

“We have a decorum to respect, we reminded her of it several times, it was time to draw a line. She was not wearing clothing worthy of an MNA within the Blue Room.”

Chantal Soucy in a statement to the press

Now, putting aside, for a moment, the Quebec Government’s ongoing and borderline fetishistic obsession with what women wear, which really is at the root of this, what happened on Thursday was a disgusting attack on democracy. People in the Taschereau riding had no voice in the National Assembly yesterday and it was in no way their representative’s fault.

If Soucy’s statement seems lacking of any reference to an actual rule Dorion was breaking, it’s because there isn’t one. Quebec’s National Assembly doesn’t have an official dress code, nor should it.

Why is Corporate Attire the Norm for Government?

When people commenting on the story in support of barring Dorion reference the fact that they would be sent home for coming to work dressed as she was forget one crucial fact. They work, most likely, in a corporate office, while Dorion doesn’t.

The business world has its dress code, so do farms, so do transit workers and so do police. If a banker shows up in jeans, they will be sent home. If a farm worker shows up in a suit, they’re in for a sweaty day and torn clothes. If a cop wears camo pants to work, it’s a protest.

Dorion showing up in a hoodie, Doc Martens or jeans and a t-shirt isn’t a protest, or at least it shouldn’t have to be one. Elected officials are supposed to represent the people, not corporations.

When Dorion wears a t-shirt promoting Franco-Ontarian poet Patrice Desbiens produced by Quebec writer Mathieu Arsenault on the floor of the National Assembly, she’s doing just that. When she wears a hoodie, there may not be a particular reason, she’s just wearing a hoodie, and that’s fine.

I wear hoodies sometimes, too. I don’t wear Doc Martens, but that doesn’t mean someone who does isn’t representative of me when speaking in the National Assembly.

Why is business formal or even business casual the default dress when it comes to elected officials? If the argument for is that they are conducting the “business of the state” which includes things like budgets, then it’s important to note that non-profit co-ops and other organizations without corporate dress codes also deal with budgets.

Insisting that corporate dress is the only way for a politician to appear professional is an implication that, for them, professionalism means serving corporate interests. This is sometime Catherine Dorion clearly doesn’t want to do and we should applaud her for it.

On October 30th, 2019 the Quebec government under François Legault and the CAQ announced that they would be making an addition to the requirements for people seeking to immigrate to Quebec. It’s a test of allegedly ‘democratic values and Quebec values’. The announcement resulted in praise by some, harsh criticism by others.

It should be said right off the bat that this article is not going to discuss how blatantly xenophobic this announcement is. It is not going to address the fact that, like Bill 21, this values test is clearly pandering to the most disgustingly xenophobic racist people in Quebec and that the path the government has taken may unfortunately culminate in a slew of hate crimes in Legault’s name. My colleague, Jason C. McLean did an excellent job of addressing this last week.

This article is going to look at the practical aspects of such a test and what impact it would really have on would-be immigrants to Quebec.

For those unfamiliar with the immigration process, federal and provincial governments have concurring jurisdiction on issues of immigration. However it must be noted that while Quebec can choose its immigrants through Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) program, it is Ottawa that ultimately gets the final say as to who gets to live in Canada permanently as permanent residents and eventually citizens.

The Quebec government announced that all adult immigration applicants and their adult family members will be required to take the test and get at least 75% to pass. If they fail, they will have an opportunity to take the test a second and third time. Minors and people with a medical condition preventing them from obtaining a selection certificate would be exempt.

The same day, the Quebec government released a series of sample questions that might appear on the test. The questions include those about the equal rights of men and women, LGBTQI rights, and regarding Quebec’s controversial religious symbols ban. If the samples are any indication, it is highly possible that some Canadian Conservative and People’s Party voters would not themselves pass it.

In order to fully grasp the actual impact this test would have, I reached out to the people with the Non à La Loi 21 group, who have been leading the fight against the religious symbols ban François Legault forced through the National Assembly last March. As they have been actively fighting prejudice in Quebec, I asked if they had any thoughts on this test. They put me in touch with Me William Korbatly, a lawyer operating out of Ville Saint Laurent.

He says that the Quebec government is within its rights to impose any condition in order to get a CSQ. Korbatly feels that such a test would be easier to pass than the mandatory French test required in order to get a CSQ, and would therefore not have a significant impact on the immigration process.

He points out that the test is useless because many people would have no problem giving the correct answers on the test even if they themselves don’t believe in what they’re answering. Once applicants have their CSQ or permanent residency, the government won’t be able to hurt them even if they openly declare their disagreement with so-called “Quebec values”.

“The problem lies not in the technicality but rather in its raison d’etre. We all know the hardline nationalist identity political agenda that the CAQ is pursuing. This test is merely another publicity populist coup to show to their audience that they stand up for their values and the ‘valeurs québécoises’.”

Me Korbatly feels that this values test is just another distraction from what is really going on in Quebec and the failures of our current government.

“Presenting the ‘laicité’ as defined by the CAQ and which was passed and integrated within the Quebec Charter of Rights by a closure motion, as a Quebec value is dishonest and doesn’t represent the real open and tolerant nature of Quebec and Quebeckers. What the CAQ is doing since the passing of Bill 21, is hijacking the opinions of all Quebecers and reducing them to their populist identity agenda and wedge politics so they can hide their failures in the execution of most of their promises such as the deal with specialist physicians, Hydro Quebec, the maternelle 4 ans, the maisons pour les ainés, and the list is long.”

Given that the test will be ultimately meaningless, here’s hoping new arrivals to Quebec say what is needed to pass so they can come here. After all, diversity is strength, and the more diverse Quebec is, the more our leaders will have to abandon their hate.

Featured image by abdallahh via Flickr Creative Commons

The Quebec Government just passed a “Quebec Values Test” requirement for prospective immigrants. It was one of Premier François Legault’s easy-to-keep campaign promises aimed squarely at the most bigoted elements of his base.

My colleague Samantha Gold will have a detailed look at the specifics and talk to some of those it actually affects in a few days. For now, just know that it’s exactly as bad as you think it is, only it’s worse.

Though passed after Bill 21, the infamous religious symbols ban, it effectively acts as a first step towards forced assimilation into white mainstream European settler culture. It also attempts to normalize the xenophobia inherent in Bill 21.

Insulting Questions That Distract

While the government hasn’t released actual questions that will be on the test, they did offer media five sample questions covering the general areas. Most of them are basic and, frankly, insulting.

There’s the one about what the official language of Quebec is. Gee, could it be the one the test is written in and also the one prospective immigrants have to take a whole other test on?

While that one may be insulting to the test taker’s intelligence, some of the others are potentially worse. Those are the ones also designed, most likely, to mollify progressive-minded people who already live here.

They ask about whether or not men and women are equal in Quebec and also if men can marry men and women marry women here. The questions ignore the reality that gender equality and LGBTQ rights might very well be the reasons behind the applicant’s desire to immigrate here in the first place.

Then there’s one about whether or not a police officer can wear a religious symbol on the job. Of course, Bill 21 goes much further than the police, but why not cherry-pick scenarios?

Coupled with the two questions I just mentioned, the intent is clear. The CAQ want to imply that a woman who chooses to wear the hijab, for example, cannot possibly be for gender equality.

At the same time, they want people to think of Bill 21 as something that actually has to do with secularism, gender equality and LGBTQ rights, when, in reality, it’s just about turning racist fears of the so-called “other” into votes. Nice try, assholes.

The final question they released, though, is really the white frosting on this cake of intolerance. It’s multiple choice:

Identify which situations involve discrimination. A job is refused:

  • To a woman who is pregnant
  • To a person lacking the required diploma
  • To a person because of their ethnic background

While the correct answer should be that refusing a job to someone for being pregnant and/or for their ethnic background constitutes discrimination, Bill 21 really muddies the waters. It has made it not just okay, but also law, to discriminate against someone proudly displaying their ethnic and cultural background when applying for a job.

Five Better Questions

Okay, so here are five more accurate questions that the CAQ should ask:

  1. Are you aware that the current government of this province is actively scapegoating immigrants to appeal to their xenophobic base?
  2. You know French is the official language, women and men are equal and the LGBTQ community have rights, but did you know the government is using all of that to justify their bigotry?
  3. Did you know that this is actually Native land and the Quebec Government really should have no say in who comes here or not?
  4. If you do come, hockey is really a thing here and so is poutine (fries, cheese curds and gravy). So, get ready for that.
  5. Just fill out the “test” the way they want and then come here and help us get them removed from office.

Seriously, though, this “test” is the sort of racist BS we’ve come to expect from the CAQ. It’s sad, but it’s also what we’ve got to deal with for the next few years.

“I called it! Liberal Minority Government.”

– Pretty much every Canadian political pundit on Election Night, professional or otherwise, and even me this time.

The 2019 Canadian Federal election turning out the way it did was, for the most part, about as predictable as Justin Trudeau taking selfies in the Montreal Metro the next day. The next few years in Canadian politics, though, are about as unpredictable as which metro lines will go down with service interruptions every other day.

When the Trudeau shine started to fade and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s popularity rose, the Liberals pulled the old strategic voting chestnut out of their playbook and ran with it. A Majority Government was now out of the question but the fear of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer coming to power made a Liberal Minority Government almost inevitable.

Fear-based strategic voting helped to lower the NDP seat count in most of the country, including on the Island of Montreal, but a resurging Bloc Québécois undid what was left of the Orange Wave in Quebec. That last part is both the most unfortunate turn of events and a little bit unexpected.

I honestly had thought the Bloc was done for and irrelevant. But they found their relevance through an appeal to bigotry and now both the second and third-place parties in this Liberal Minority are right-wing.

Yes, the Bloc are progressive on some issues, most notably the environment, but their support of the xenophobic Bill 21 means they are not a progressive party. Secularism of the state means no state-imposed religion, banning public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols on the job is nothing more than an attack on customs that aren’t white and European in origin designed to appeal to bigoted fear of the “other” and latent Eurocentric white supremacist instincts.

Speaking of bigots, the People’s Party of Canada didn’t get enough people to vote for them to win them one seat, even leader Maxime Bernier’s in Beauce. So that’s a good thing.

Trudeau Has Many Options

Minority Liberal governments with a strong NDP (and despite losses, this NDP is strong, more on that later) have given us some great things in the past. Universal healthcare and the Canada Pension Plan are just a couple of examples.

These happened, though, because the NDP (and a few Red Tories) were able to force the Libs to the left. I’m not sure if the makeup of the incoming Parliament will offer the same sort of incentives.

In fact, Justin Trudeau may very well still be in the drivers’ seat as long as he switches up who rides shotgun depending on the bill. If it’s a social issue, say protecting LGBTQ rights, call on Singh and the NDP for support. SNC Lavalin investigation rearing its head again? Yves-François Blanchet and the Bloc have your back. Want to build a pipeline? Pretty sure Scheer and the Official Opposition Conservatives won’t oppose this one, officially or otherwise.

No wonder it was Trudeau selfie time the next day. While this doesn’t give him the same power his last majority did, he has the right setup to stay in power for a while and get most of what he wants done.

And he knows it. He’s already ruled out forming a Coalition Government and announced he plans to move ahead with the Trans-Mountain pipeline.

The Power’s in the Details

That doesn’t mean that the opposition parties are powerless, far from it. Their power, though, won’t be felt in what gets put on the table, but rather in the tweaks they get to make to proposed legislation in exchange for their support.

It’s also crucial for them to be the party that Trudeau needs support from. If he goes to the Cons, they’ll make him move to the right. If he goes to the NDP, they’ll make him move to the left. If he goes to the Bloc, they’ll just try and get some sort of special deal for Quebec.

The first vote will be on the budget, which is automatically a confidence vote. If Trudeau puts Trans-Mountain into it, there’s no way the Bloc or NDP could support it, so he’ll have to rely on the Cons, which will push the rest of the budget to the right.

If he leaves the pipeline out for now and adds a bunch of progressive things, then the NDP can push him just a bit more to the left. Yes, they’ll be making him look good, but also potentially getting a better deal for everyone.

I suspect that out of the gate, Trudeau won’t go to his right, because he knows another election will happen sooner rather than later. But honestly I really don’t know.

Opposition Leaders Should Be Safe

I have been hearing some talk from certain members of the opposition parties (except the Bloc, for obvious reasons) demanding their respective leader’s political head on a platter. While some of the “Scheer/May must go!” calls have merit and none of the calls to replace Singh do (more on that later), I suspect none of the opposition leaders are going anywhere.

Simply put, no one replaces a leader in a Minority Parliament unless the party establishment wanted them gone before the election (see Stéphane Dion). It’s just too risky, even for the well-funded parties (see Michael Ignatieff).

For the parties whose pockets aren’t as deep, paying for a leadership race and then potentially paying to compete in another election campaign a year later could be financially disastrous. Also, what happens if the government falls and your party doesn’t have a new leader in place yet?

Singh Has Reason to Celebrate

If you watched Jagmeet Singh talk on election night, it really came across as a victory speech (or at least it did until Scheer cut him off only to be cut off himself by Trudeau). And with good reason.

This wasn’t the decimation of the NDP many had predicted just a few months ago. There was a Singh Surge, it just didn’t turn into the wave New Democrats had hoped for.

I’m sure there will be arguments that the NDP should ditch Singh now because they pushed Thomas Mulcair out after he won more seats. Yeah, Mulcair’s seat count after the 2015 election may have been bigger, but he actually lost more seats than Singh did.

Mulcair went from a pre-election total of 95 seats, already down from the 103 the party won under Jack Layton, to 44 , meaning the party lost 51 seats (including a good chunk of the Orange Wave) on his watch. Singh, by contrast, went from 39 to 24, only losing 15 seats.

Singh may not have stopped the bleeding entirely, but he bandaged it up pretty well. Also, holding 24 seats with a Liberal Minority Government in power is potentially a more powerful position to be in than holding 44 seats with a Liberal Majority in place.

It’s important not to forget that while Mulcair may have been a solid Member of Parliament and even Deputy Leader, his tenure as leader was due to a deal he didn’t live up to his part of. The party let him move the NDP to the right and in exchange he promised them they would form government but they didn’t.

If you make a deal with the Devil and the best the Devil can deliver is third place, you get out of that deal as fast as you can. Singh, on the other hand, campaigned as a bold and progressive New Democrat, one Trudeau couldn’t outflank on the left, and did okay.

Yes, some solid Quebec NDP seats were lost and Alexandre Boulerice, the party’s Deputy Leader, currently holds the only New Democrat seat in Quebec, but Singh didn’t abandon us, at least not in his speech. He wants to win back what Mulcair lost and what he was unable to hold on to.

Now, with a Minority Parliament, who really knows what will happen next. It’s going to be an interesting few years (or months).