New Canadian Media

Commentary by Fred Maroun in Ottawa

“Immigration played a role in the Brexit campaign”, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Since there were only four percentage points between the winning side (to leave the European Union) and the losing side, it is likely that this factor was decisive.

Concerns over immigration have lately been widespread across the West. They seem to have played an important role in Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primaries, and seem to be fuelling the growing popularity of hard right-wing parties in Europe.

These concerns represent a mixed bag. There is undoubtedly some xenophobia, but there are also valid concerns about the risk that immigration places on our liberal values.

I emigrated from Lebanon in 1984. My main motivation was to live in a society that shared my liberal values, where women and gay people are treated more fairly, and where freedom of expression is guaranteed.

Today, I wonder if Canada and the West in general will continue to be a haven for future generations who are fleeing tyranny.

Sharing liberal values

Many of the newcomers do not share the West’s liberal values and do not easily change their outlook once they arrive. As reported in The Guardian in 2009, a Gallup Poll found that “None of the 500 British Muslims interviewed believed that homosexual acts were morally acceptable”.

France fared better in the same poll, and “35% of French Muslims found homosexual acts to be acceptable”.

Both Britain and France have since then legalized same-sex marriage, a step well beyond simply tolerating homosexuality. If Muslims were in the majority in Britain and France, it is unlikely that same-sex marriage would have become the law.

Canadian Muslim reformer, Raheel Raza, wrote in reference to the niqab, “In the 25 years I have called Canada home, I have seen a steady rise of Muslim women being strangled in the pernicious black tent”.

Another Canadian Muslim reformer, Farzana Hassan, wrote in her book “Unveiled”, “To live strictly according to sharia is the goal of conservative Muslim families in Canada. These are the values they are imparting to their young children”.

Equality of cultures

Interestingly, our liberal values often discourage us from fighting back against attacks on these very same values. The politicians who raise concerns about immigration tend to be demagogues, such as Trump and hard right-wingers such as France’s Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National.

If those politicians come to power, however, we cannot trust them to protect our liberal values. Demagogues pander to whatever political stand will get them elected, and hard right-wingers do not favour equal rights for minorities, a core principle of liberal values.

A claim often made by some liberals is that all cultures are equal and, therefore, we have no right to impose our culture on others. Even assuming that this claim is true, it only means that we should not forcefully go into other countries and impose our values there.

It does not take away our right to protect our own culture.

This is not a relationship of equals. It is a relationship of subservience.

For example, extreme conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia expect visitors to comply with their cultural practices, such as women covering up in public, yet we allow visitors and even immigrants to our countries to disregard our values by wearing the niqab in public.

This is not a relationship of equals. It is a relationship of subservience.

Cowering on the sidelines

Moderate Western politicians must protect our liberal values by taking reasonable measures that respect human rights. For example, many Syrian refugees have been welcomed in the West and many more are expected to arrive.

Yet, as noted by Amnesty International, “Gulf countries including Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees”. The West should demand more participation from rich Muslim countries to ensure that refugees find homes that match their social values.

Another reasonable measure might be screening potential migrants based on their existing values and their ability to adapt to Western norms such as respect for LGBT rights and women’s rights. Once they have immigrated, there should be restrictions on some cultural practices.

As both Raheel Raza and another Canadian Muslim reformer Tarek Fatah have demanded, the niqab and the burka should be banned in public places.

Those of us who believe in liberal values have a right and even a duty to protect them. Centrist and left-wing politicians should be at the forefront of this battle rather than cowering on the sidelines, leaving the floor to illiberal politicians.

Defending our values is important not only for the West, but also to potential immigrants who wish to leave oppressive societies. Refusing to fight for our values is dangerous for us and a disservice to new immigrants.


Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/fred-maroun/ and http://www.jpost.com/Blogger/Fred-Maroun.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

by Michelle Zilio (@MichelleZilio) in Ottawa

Days after British lawmakers passed a symbolic motion recognizing Palestine as a state alongside Israel, it doesn’t look like Canada’s Parliament will consider doing the same anytime soon.

The U.K. vote Monday followed a motion put forward by the opposition Labour Party. The motion, amended to say a Palestinian state would only be recognized once peace negotiations have successfully concluded, passed 274 to 12.

Although fewer than half of MPs took part in the vote — Prime Minister David Cameron and his cabinet abstained — and the vote will not alter the government’s stance on the issue, experts say it is still significant as a reflection of shifting public opinion following the war in Gaza.

It certainly provides a stark contrast to the political debate on the issue in Canada.

“The thing that struck me in the past couple of days is that I don’t see a similar debate in the Parliament of Canada,” said Canada’s former ambassador to Israel, Norman Spector, in an interview with iPolitics.

And don’t expect a debate or vote to happen in Canada in the near future, says Spector.

“I don’t expect either of the two main opposition parties to move this kind of resolution or force this kind of debate in the House of Commons.”

“I think it (the U.K. Parliament vote) sends a signal about evolving opinion on the issue of Palestinian statehood but I don’t see it having an impact on Canadian policy,”

When asked whether they would consider a similar motion to recognize a Palestinian state in the House of Commons, neither the NDP or the Liberals jumped at the idea.

The NDP, which supported a Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN in 2012, did not indicate whether it would consider tabling a motion. Rather, the party’s foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, said the government should remain focused on bringing both sides back to the table for a negotiated two-state solution. He also used the opportunity to criticize the Conservative government’s silence following the vote in the U.K. Monday.

“It’s a sad sign of how disconnected Conservatives are from the goal of a negotiated two-state solution when we see the minister of foreign affairs refuse to even reiterate Canada’s longstanding position in support of the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution,” said Dewar in an email.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird did not release any official reaction to the Monday’s vote. In response to an email request from iPolitics, his spokesperson, Adam Hodge, said, “Palestinian statehood can only be achieved through negotiations between the two parties.”

“We are committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East whereby two states live side-by-side in peace and security,” said Hodge. “Canada again urges the parties to resume direct peace talks, without delay or preconditions.”

In an email statement, Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau said “symbolic moves by either principal — or by third-party actors — are not useful in advancing the agenda for direct negotiations.” He said the Liberal Party’s longstanding position has been that the only way forward is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

“Liberals would however support a conversation on how best to — and how Canada can best — move the actors back to the table in the interests of an enduring peace.”

Spector noted the difference between the Israel-Palestinian Territories stance in Canada and the U.K. For instance, while Canada voted in favour of a “two states for two peoples” solution at the UN in 1947, the U.K. did not. In that sense, he says, the British government is trying to “catch up.” He also noted the differences between the two countries’ media coverage of the issue, with British media tending to be more “pro-Palestinian” and Canadian media “much more towards the centre.”

However, recent events may be even more telling of the NDP and Liberals’ lack of interest in a vote recognizing a Palestinian state, says Spector. On the war in Gaza in July and August, the Conservatives, predictably, stood by Israel, Spector said, and the Liberals and NDP were noticeably “cautious” in their reaction to the fighting. Both parties expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself and were accused of falling in line with the Harper government’s stance on the issue. Based on the opposition reaction to the recent conflict, Spector says it’s highly unlikely either party will table a motion to recognize Palestine as a state.

When asked whether they would consider a similar motion to recognize a Palestinian state in the House of Commons, neither the NDP or the Liberals jumped at the idea.

Tim Martin, a former Canadian representative to the Palestinian Authority, agrees with Spector. In an interview with iPolitics, he said he doesn’t see any indication that the NDP or Liberals would table a motion for a similar vote. While he thinks the vote in the U.K. is “significant,” he doubts it will have any impact on Canada.

“I think it (the U.K. Parliament vote) sends a signal about evolving opinion on the issue of Palestinian statehood but I don’t see it having an impact on Canadian policy,” said Martin.

But given the stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Martin said he understands why the Labour party felt the need to table the motion.

“Without fruitful looking negotiations on the horizon, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think about recognition of a Palestinian state and working to help the Palestinians and the Israelis secure the practical attributes that would lead to a functioning two-state approach.”

Whether Canada’s Parliament actually votes to recognize a Palestinian state, Martin said it’s important for the government to make every effort to advance peace negotiations now.

“It’s important to recognize that the successful peace negotiations are feasible between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Martin. “It’s important for us to keep this in mind and keep encouraging peace in the Middle East and not give up on it.”

Re-published with permission.

Published in Politics

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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