Canada Tasha Kheiriddin: Box-ticking 'diversity' appointments aren't the only way for Ottawa to represent today's Canada
Tasha Kheiriddin: Calling an election in August would give Trudeau Liberals best shot at a majority
Election junkies, start your engines. Between the appointment of a new governor general to a flurry of spending announcements, an early Canadian federal election is now a foregone conclusion. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh can ask the prime minister to hold off for another two years, but no one is listening; across the country, parties and candidates are gearing up for the fight that’s palpably in the air. So when will Justin Trudeau pull the trigger? There are many factors at play: his party’s stance in the polls, the state of COVID and the vaccine rollout, and regional issues including the Alberta referendum on equalization, scheduled for October 7.
What does it mean to “represent Canada” in the 21 st century? We are a nation of two official languages, 10 provinces, and three territories. Forty-one per cent of us are first-or-second generation immigrants. Eighty-one per cent of us live in cities, the rest in rural or small-town communities. In terms of gender and orientation, the LGBTQQIP2SAA acronym keeps growing. And dozens of First Nations, speaking about as many languages, call this land home.
In other words, Canada may be the most diverse country on the planet. And increasingly, we demand that our public institutions reflect that reality. Trouble is, you can’t encompass our entire range of diversity in each individual appointee — as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s two most recent appointments aptly illustrate.
Shaver: Don't call an election until the pandemic is truly behind us, Mr. Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shaved off his beard and trimmed his hair. An election seems imminent. But is this really wise considering the risk of flare-ups of the pandemic? On June 1, Yukon had no active cases and a sick-leave plan that paid $378 daily up to 10 days. In Whitehorse, 72 per cent had received the second doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Yet only 10 days later, an outbreak occurred in unvaccinated persons. By July 6, there were 360 new cases – the highest per capita case rate in Canada. By July 13, 480. This shows we can never fully let down our guard.
Canada’s new Supreme Court justice Mahmud Jamal, named to the High Court in June, is a brilliant bilingual jurist born in Kenya to Ismaili parents who made their home in Edmonton — but he is not female or First Nations. The incoming governor general, Mary Simon, scheduled to be sworn in this month, is an accomplished diplomat from northern Quebec of part-Inuk heritage who has championed Indigenous rights for decades — but while she is fluent in English and Inuktitut, she does not speak French.
While both appointments have been greatly praised for what they are — the promotion of two eminently qualified, respected people who represent not only diversity, but excellence — they have also been criticized for what they are not: aka, perfect. Simon’s appointment has drawn the most controversy, due to her lack of French, which she ascribes to her education at an English-only federally run day school. Over 400 complaints have been lodged over the appointment with the commissioner of official languages, who is launching an “investigation” into her appointment.
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An Ottawa woman made it her mission to get her community vaccinated, one appointment at a time.It’s also what enabled this 42-year-old Ottawa communications professional to help others find appointments for their shots. She’s done it a lot – estimating that she’s helped roughly 100 people since the beginning of the pandemic.
It’s hard to see what such an inquiry will involve. Will the commissioner Zoom-call the Queen to ask her if she was unduly influenced in her approval of the nomination? (Assuming that she takes the call, I doubt that her Majesty will be very, er, amused.)
There is no question that over the course of her decades-long public-service career, Simon could have tried learning French. And there is no question that she needs to be able to speak and understand French to fully carry out certain duties, both at home and abroad. She has promised to learn, a pledge which will no doubt be closely scrutinized in the coming months.
This does little to satisfy her critics, notably in Quebec. The outcry there is about more than representation, however; it comes at a time when. suggest the percentage of Quebecers speaking French will decline from 82 per cent of people in 2011 to 75 per cent in 2036. At the same time, Canada’s self-definition as a country of two founding peoples is being challenged by both newcomers and Indigenous Peoples.
Misconduct allegations spur calls for universities to cut ties with running club
Some current and former athletes and academics are calling on Carleton University and the University of Ottawa to cut ties with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, after news another former coach is being investigated for historical, sexual misconduct.Last month, CBC Ottawa reported on allegations against former Lions coach and Bell High School teacher Peter Des Brisay.
In response, Quebec’s legislature introduced Bill 96, which would demand greater compliance from business with Quebec’s Charter of the French Language. The federal government also introduced Bill 32, which would promote French immersion across Canada, require that all future Supreme Court nominees to be bilingual, and increase immigration from French-speaking countries in provinces outside Quebec. The goal, in the words of Minister of Official Languages Mélanie Joly, isthe decline of French in Canada.
Simon’s appointment, however, does not portend the demise of the French fact. If anything, her recognition that she must learn the language reaffirms that linguistic duality remains a defining part of Canada’s identity. We must also remember that simply ticking boxes is also no guarantee of success. Former Governor General Julie Payette was fluently bilingual, an astronaut, and had schools named after her. She also left her post in disgrace, after being accused of creating a “toxic workplace” at Rideau Hall.
It is possible to both respect history and reflect change, as embodied in both Simon’s and Jamal’s appointments. That’s something we should all remember as our nation navigates discussions of diversity, representation and equality in the years to come.
Canada at the Tokyo Olympics: Who’s competing Friday night, Saturday morning .
For Canadian fans, events held Saturday in Japan will start to get underway Friday evening and continue overnight into Saturday morning. Canadian athletes will be busy competing in several events at the Tokyo Olympics Saturday, which marks the first full day of competition after Friday's opening ceremony.