New Canadian Media

Commentary by Fred Maroun in Ottawa

Kellie Leitch is one of the candidates seeking the leadership of Canada’s Conservative party, and she attracted much attention with her proposal for “screening immigrants, refugees, and visitors, for anti-Canadian values”. There are two parts to Leitch’s proposal.

First, there is the concept of Canadian values then there is the screening.

Leitch is simply advancing widely accepted principles. She lists six values, which belong in three categories:

·         Nice-sounding but unenforceable character traits: “helping others”, “hard work”, and “generosity”.

·         “Freedom and tolerance”, which she elaborates to mean “equality of men and women, freedom of religion, and equality of all under the law”. These values are already covered in further details in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of our constitution.

·         “Equal opportunity”, less a moral value than a political belief because it affects the functioning of government rather than the actions of individuals.

Canadian values are not a Conservative or even a Liberal idea even though we owe our charter to former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The term “Canadian values” is not widely used, yet the values are widely accepted by Canadians and even enshrined in our constitution.

On this basis, Leitch’s proposal should not be controversial, but it has become a lightning rod because there is the suspicion that it targets Muslims.

Are Canadian Values Islamophobic?

If Canadian values are seen to be hostile to Islam, it is because they are, at least when it comes to Islam as practised today by the vast majority of Muslim-majority countries. Those countries have no democratic freedoms, lesser rights for women and some ethnic groups, limited freedom of religion, and limited legal rights for non-citizens.

Islam is often used as justification for terrorism and other forms of violence in many parts of the world.

It is natural to be concerned about whether Muslims who come to Canada will negatively affect our values in the long term by adopting some of the same practices used in their countries of origin. This fear exists among much of the population of the Western world, including Canada, yet few mainstream politicians dare raise it or, even less, propose solutions.

Charter principles

Although Leitch does not state it, it is clear that her proposal is a way of addressing the fear of Islam. Her refusal to make the connection may be an attempt to avoid being labelled anti-Muslim. Leitch insists that her proposal is not anti-Muslim, and she is correct. Leitch is addressing legitimate fears of Islam in a positive way, by promoting Canadian values, which are consistent with the values of many individual Muslims, and not in a negative way, which would be to single out Islam as U.S. President Donald Trump has done through his recent executive order.

Our charter contradicts some of the widely practised Muslim principles, but it also contradicts some Christian and Jewish principles. For example, some Christian and Jewish denominations do not support gender equality.

If our Charter, and by extension our Canadian values, were anti-Muslim then they would also have to be considered anti-Christian and anti-Jewish, which is not the case. The Canadian Charter explicitly protects freedom of religion, while it expects Canadians to abide by our Canadian values. This is a recognition that individuals can think for themselves and can believe in a faith without blindly applying each of its stated principles.

Highly Desirable Policy

In this light, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is Pierre Trudeau’s son, should be even moral vocal than Leitch in promoting Canadian values, but instead, he is choosing to support a motion that condemns “Islamophobia”. Muslims and all other minorities must be protected against discrimination and violence, but politicians are hypocritical when they pretend that Islam is not a legitimate concern for many Canadians.

Canadian values should be a source of pride, not a source of partisan debate. If newcomers to Canada can be screened to protect our values, such a policy should be welcomed by everyone, including by Muslims who are here to escape the tyrannical regimes of their countries of origin.

Leitch’s proposal is still at a very early stage, and there are valid questions on how it would be implemented to avoid discrimination on the basis of religion. It is on such practical aspects that the debate should center. It may turn out that her proposal is not feasible, but it does not necessarily follow that this is a needless debate.

Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He regularly blogs for the Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel.

Published in Commentary
Sunday, 11 December 2016 08:06

Don’t Mess with a Vote System that Works

Commentary by Fred Maroun in Ottawa

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to replace the first-past-the-post electoral system of Canada during the last federal election campaign a year ago. Now that he is prime minister with a parliamentary majority, there is an expectation from opponents of that electoral system that he will deliver on a promise that he should never have made.

Opponents of the first-past-the-post system advance romantic ideas of better representation of the range of opinions of Canadians to make their case, but romanticism does not make for good policy. Fact is there is already more than adequate representation in Parliament of the diversity of Canadian opinions, and at the same time, groups on the extremes cannot easily dictate to the majority. (Under the current system, the candidate with the most votes is declared elected in every riding.)

In the current debate on electoral reform, the positions taken by the four national parties do not represent any romantic ideas of democracy. They represent nothing but their own best interests.

Party positions

The Green Party and the NDP, who always elect a smaller percentage of Members of Parliament (MPs) than their shares of the vote, want proportional representation (a system under which the number of MPs would mirror a party’s popular vote).

The Conservatives, who have benefited from the first-past-the-post system and who know that no other system would work better for them, reject any electoral reform.

The Liberals, who know that they would benefit from preferential balloting since it favours middle-of-the-road parties (it is a system under which a voter ranks all candidates by order of preference), are said to support this system, although they have been careful not to admit it publicly.

If partisan interest is ignored, it is abundantly clear that the current system is not only good enough, but that it is the best possible system.

Just ask any immigrant if they prefer the Canadian system or the system used in their country of origin. Our voting system is why many immigrants come here.

Reflecting popular will

When it is convenient to them, politicians tell us that Canada is the best place in the world. We certainly are one of the best places, and that is because we have a political system that is able to govern Canada efficiently through changing times, while remaining representative of the general will of Canadians.

Proportional representation exists in other countries, and it certainly delivers on the promise to elect politicians that represent diverse opinions. However, it does so at a high price.

Smaller parties with narrow interests often become essential in forming government coalitions and are able to dictate their narrow agendas. This phenomenon is very visible in Israel, a country that uses proportional representation, as Haaretz explains in “Ultra-Orthodox Parties Are Back in Power and Israelis Aren’t Thrilled About It”.

The first-past-the-post system does not prevent politicians with minority opinions from being elected, but to be elected, they usually have to work within a party that has broad appeal. For example, the Conservative party includes MPs who wish to ban abortion, even though that is not the policy of the party. Under this system, MPs who hold minority opinions must convince others to support them, which is a good democratic practice. They cannot ram through unpopular changes by being power brokers. 

The first-past-the-post system also does not prevent the emergence and the viability of third parties, although it does require them to have broader support than they would need under proportional representation. Five parties are currently represented in the Parliament of Canada, a consistent pattern over the last few decades, including the NDP, the Greens, the Liberals, the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois.

Majority government

While it includes minority representation, the fact that the first-past-the-post system usually results in majority governments means that it offers the advantages of political stability and the ability to make tough choices. The Canada-U.S. free trade agreement (later followed by the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA) is now seen by all political parties as beneficial to Canada, but that agreement would not have occurred under proportional representation since the Conservative party was at that time the only party supporting it.

Preferential balloting could be seen as a reasonable compromise, since it would likely maintain the benefits of majority governments while giving voters the feeling that their votes are more influential than under first-past-the-past. However, there would be a diminished diversity of opinions represented in Parliament. Under preferential balloting, centrist views would gain an advantage since this is typically the second choice of people on either side of an issue. Therefore, less mainstream opinions would have a harder time being heard. 

Delivering on election promises is typically good politics, but it is not good politics when the promise itself was foolish. Prime Minister Trudeau should do what is best for Canada, not what is best for his party – keep the electoral system as it is because it is the best in the world.

Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lives in Ottawa. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at Gatestone Institute, The Times of Israel, Jerusalem Online, and Jerusalem Post.

Published in Politics

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
Monday, 11 April 2016 17:32

Mulcair Defeat: Appeasement Never Works

Commentary by Fred Maroun in Ottawa

Tom Mulcair was removed as leader of the NDP because of the party’s disappointing result in the last federal election. The election started with Mulcair as the favourite to become prime minister, and it ended with the NDP back to its traditional third place.

There is, however, a more interesting element behind Mulcair’s defeat. While many of the convention attendees expressed sadness that they had to make the difficult decision of removing Mulcair, the left-wing of the party openly celebrated his demise, pumping their fists in the air in delight.

Mulcair would likely have been a competent prime minister, but while he had the same policies as Jack Layton, he did not have his charisma. Mulcair’s term as leader ended with a humiliating vote. He was two per cent short of the 50 per cent that would have at least allowed him to resign with dignity. Had he received the support of some of the left-wing of the party, he would at least passed the 50 per cent mark.

Careful language

Unlike the party moderates who voted against Mulcair because they felt that he could not win, the left-wing voted against him purely for ideological reasons. The most salient point of disagreement between them is that Mulcair is moderately pro-Israel whereas the extreme left is vehemently anti-Israel. The extremists have been waiting for an opportunity to exact their revenge on him. This past weekend, that opportunity finally materialized.

The defeat came despite Mulcair's attempts to appease the extremists. Despite being pro-Israel, Mulcair used very careful language on this topic since he became leader and he managed to prevent a public war within the party between the pro-Israel and the anti-Israel camps. He even voted against a Conservative resolution in Parliament that condemned the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, refusing to join the Liberals who voted for it.

[Mulcair] managed to prevent a public war within the party between the pro-Israel and the anti-Israel camps.

Mulcair’s stand in support of the wearing of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies during the last election also appeared to be an attempt to appease the extreme left. They were not appeased, and they took the first opportunity to humiliate him.

Extremists in the ranks

The presence of a virulently anti-Israel faction has now become common in Western left-wing parties. The U.K Labour party even elected the anti-Israel Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. The anti-Israel hysteria found on the extreme left is fed by its victimization fetish, and it goes far beyond reasonable criticism. Its singling out of the only Jewish state for extreme and unbalanced criticism feeds anti-Semitism.

U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump was roundly criticized by many Republicans when it became known that he had not immediately repudiated the support of high-profile racists. No Western party today would tolerate an openly racist faction within it, yet the anti-Semitism fostered by the extreme left is rarely challenged.

Mulcair’s predecessors Jack Layton and Alexa McDonough took courageous steps in trying to cleanse the party of its anti-Israel elements, and Mulcair continued the same policies. For example, he refused to accept candidates who are blatantly anti-Israel. Mulcair, however, should have taken the fight against the extremists to the next level. The extremists never left the party. They were lurking in the shadows, waiting for the next opportunity to strike. Mulcair should have made his support for Israel much more visible, like Stephen Harper did, which would have caused the extremists to leave in disgust.

But Mulcair allowed the extremists to remain and to ignore the party’s low-key pro-Israel policies. The extremists have a strong presence in the grassroots of the party, and Mulcair did nothing to change that.

Alberta revolt

While Jack Layton was a transformational figure who changed the party into a much more modern and credible machine that was seen by Canadian voters as a possible party of government, marginalizing the extreme left, Mulcair failed to take the step of eliminating the extreme left altogether. The NDP is now back to being a third party, both in numbers and in mindset. To the chagrin of the Alberta NDP which is now in power, the party is now debating a “Leap Manifesto” that would make the federal party completely unelectable and would damage their provincial chances as well.

The NDP is now back to being a third party, both in numbers and in mindset.

Mulcair is leaving a party deeply divided. He failed to leave a lasting mark. His experience and knowledge would have made him an excellent Cabinet minister in a Jack Layton government, but it turns out that leading a left-wing party with a deep extremist mentality at its grassroots was beyond his capabilities.

He tried to buy the extremists’ loyalty by appeasing them, mirroring the NDP’s approach towards ISIS, but like with ISIS, appeasement only feeds the problem and makes the extremists stronger. In the end, the NDP’s extremists delivered the fatal blow and then rejoiced in seeing Mulcair go down to a humiliating defeat.


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

Published in Commentary

by Fred Maroun in Ottawa, Ontario

Advocates of the Conservative government’s ban on the wearing of the niqab during citizenship ceremonies claim that the policy supports women’s rights. For Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, it's a matter of “fundamental equality between man and woman.

However, if women wear the niqab freely, then banning the niqab can be considered an infringement on a woman’s right to choose and an infringement on her freedom of religion. This seems to be the position adopted by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in the recent Munk Debate on Canada’s Foreign Policy,

Mulcair’s stance surprised some voters. Until the day before the French language debate, held on Sept. 26, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was the only one of the three leading party leaders to clearly oppose the ban during this election period. 

This leads us to ask the following question: is Mulcair taking a principled stand or did he choose the most politically advantageous position?

NDP falling behind as election nears

Public opinion polls in late August showed the NDP far ahead at 37.4 percent, but the party appears to be losing ground. The NDP lost support in later polls but was still in a tight three-way race with Liberals and Conservatives—that is, until the French language debate in which Mulcair opposed the ban.

Following the debate, the NDP lost even more support across the country, particularly in Quebec. As of time of press, the NDP is in third place behind the Liberals and the Conservatives at 27.2 percent support, federally; its support in Quebec—which had peaked at 49.6 percent—is now at 33.9 percent. 

If Mulcair’s stand is politically motivated, it does not appear to be working.

Mulcair’s comments even seemed to frustrate members of Canada’s Muslim population. He stated at the debate, “If some of those women are oppressed, we need to help them, and it's not going to be depriving them of their Canadian citizenship and rights that will do that," hinting that some women are forced to wear the niqab. 

Shireen Ahmed, a Muslim journalist based in Mississauga, responded to this statement in a commentary published on New Canadian Media: “Therein lies the problem. Muslim women do not need to be helped nor do they need saving," she said.

Mulcair’s comments even seemed to frustrate members of Canada’s Muslims population.

The two principles one typically invokes to argue against the ban are women’s right to choose what they wear and freedom of religion. The problem with this is that, by Mulcair’s own admission, women who wear the niqab may not be in a position to make a choice. As to freedom of religion, one would be hard-pressed to argue that the wearing of the niqab is mandated by any respectable religion. 

This practice, which is dehumanizing to women, is mandated only by a very marginal sect of Islam that is very foreign to the core Western values of freedom and equality.

Mulcair’s stance is further compromised by the comments of other NDP candidates. One of the NDP’s best known Quebec MPs, Alexandre Boulerice, said to The Globe and Mail, “It seems to be a symbol of oppression, which is not something that pleases me”.  

Another NDP candidate, Jean-François Delisle, also disagreed with Mulcair’s position, stating that if elected the party should amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to make it a legal impossibility.

A pattern of behaviour

This is not the first time that Mulcair has stood up for Muslims in a way that is less than convincing.

In September 2013, Mulcair slammed Quebec’s proposed “charter of values,” saying, “To be told that a woman working in a daycare centre because she's wearing a head scarf will lose her job is to us intolerable in our society.” Yet he was late in denouncing the charter, long after Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

After an attack on Canada’s parliament by a lone gunman in October 2014, Mulcair insisted that the attacker, Michael Zehaf Bibeau was “a criminal, but not a terrorist.” The fact that Bibeau was indeed a terrorist was later further proven by the release of a video that he'd made before the attack.

In February 2015, Mulcair denounced Harper’s linking of mosques to radicalization, yet some mosques have promoted hatred of the West in the past. As Muslim author Tarek Fatah wrote, “Even on the day Islamist Jihadi Terrorists killed four Jews in Paris in the name of Islam, and just two days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, an Imam in a downtown Toronto mosque could not resist the urge to pray to Allah for Muslim victory over Christians and other non-Muslims.”

If Mulcair’s stand is politically motivated, it does not appear to be working.

Mulcair is the only leader of a major party to oppose Bill C-51, a bill that appears to be opposed by most Canadian Muslims.Yet, some moderate Muslims, including spokespeople from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, support the bill.

It seems that Mulcair’s opposition to the niqab ban is neither based on principle nor based in politics. Perhaps it and other positions he has taken in a clumsy defense of Muslims are meant to appease his party’s radicals who are uncomfortable with Mulcair’s support of Israel. His position on the niqab has certainly disappointed some voters, including myself.

I have written that I support Mulcair, and I still do. I think that his policies, particularly on the environment and scientific research, are a much needed change. I also believe that he would be a competent prime minister. 

However, I cannot help but think that if Harper manufactured the niqab question as a cynical wedge issue to distract voters, then perhaps he has succeeded, at least as far as the NDP is concerned.

Editor's Note: This commentary was updated from a previous version to clarify the writer's disappointment in Mulcair's position on the niqab as opposed to his support of Israel.


Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel.

 

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 Fred Maroun (@Fred_Maroun) in Ottawa, Ontario

I arrived in Canada in 1984 as an adult of voting age.

I had never voted in my country of origin, which is probably not unusual for immigrants who may come from countries where democracy is scarce. 

In my case, I left in the middle of a civil war that pitted the Muslims and the Palestinians against the Christians, and due to the war, Lebanon held no elections for 20 years, from 1972 to 1992.

When I arrived in Canada, I soon became involved with the New Democratic Party (NDP) due to my left-leaning political views, and I interacted with many activists from the NDP and other parties. 

As I gained a better understanding of Canada, my opinions moderated, and I have at various times supported each of the three mainstream parties. 

[E]ach of the main parties has strengths and weaknesses; each is an important part of the fabric of Canadian politics.

I now believe that each of the main parties has strengths and weaknesses; each is an important part of the fabric of Canadian politics.

Having been a voter in Canada for many years now, I have compiled some friendly advice for my fellow immigrants who are now voters in free and fair elections in an advanced liberal democracy. I hope you find it useful.

1. All mainstream parties are friendly to immigrants. The Liberal party has in the past been considered the party of immigrants, but the Conservatives and the NDP have significantly increased their support among immigrants. Unlike some other countries, none of our mainstream parties are racist or anti-immigrant.

2. Think for yourself. Do not rely on the advice or pressure of other members of your community. Their priorities may not be yours, and they may themselves be acting based on community pressure. The fact that you are reading this article already shows that you are taking your own initiative.

Read and watch what the leaders say during the campaign, particularly their promises.

3. The leader is important. Party policies are important, but they are far less important than the leader. The Prime Minister and a very small number of trusted ministers set the government’s priorities. Your confidence in a leader’s abilities and vision is more important than your agreement with every single policy. Read and watch what the leaders say during the campaign, particularly their promises, but keep in mind it is not unusual for leaders, particularly if they are currently in opposition, to break some promises when they are faced with reality.

4. The local candidate is important. You vote for a local candidate, not directly for a party.  Although members of Parliament (MPs) tend to follow the leader’s direction, it is always possible for an MP to take a different direction or even to switch parties. For this reason, it is important to know about the individual that you are voting for. You can contact a candidate through their website, and a good candidate will make time to speak with a voter.

5. Know your own expectations. Take the time to decide which political issues are important to you personally based on your family life, your work life and your own values. Do not get caught up with narrow issues that may receive a lot of media attention.

Elections Canada also lists a phone number for each candidate – do not be afraid to call.

6. Look up the parties and the local candidates. Go to the Elections Canada website and click on tab “Candidate & Parties”. When you enter your postal code, you will be told about your electoral district and the registered candidates. Be sure to Google the candidates and parties that you are interested in. Elections Canada also lists a phone number for each candidate – do not be afraid to call.

7. Take activists’ claims with a grain of salt. Party activists present a stark contrast between their party and others, but this is not always true. The leader of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair, has positioned his party firmly in the centre-left, the Conservatives have governed from the centre-right, and the Liberal party is, of course, centrist. Their practical policy differences are rarely fundamental. Canada is a stable and prosperous country that needs the occasional tweaking rather than fundamental shifts.

By voting ... you also uphold a right that many people in the world do not have.

8. Do not waste your vote on minor parties. The only parties worth considering are the NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives. All other parties have limited scope and little to no relevance. If a particular issue is critical to you, find the mainstream party that comes closest to your view, but do not waste your vote on a party that will have zero influence in Parliament.

9. Make sure that you can vote. Go to the Elections Canada website and click on “check or update your voter registration now” to find out.

10. Vote! By voting you exercise the most fundamental right that you will ever have as a Canadian, and you also uphold a right that many people in the world do not have. Choose wisely.


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 Fred Maroun (@Fred_Maroun) in Ottawa, Ontario

Let me start by saying, I am not a partisan New Democrat, although I was a member of the New Democratic Party (NDP) when I was much younger. More recently I have preferred the centrist Liberals, and I was considering voting Conservative in the coming federal election; however, under the leadership of Tom Mulcair, I think that the NDP offers the best choice for Canadians, especially if one happens to be an immigrant from the Middle East. Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Support for Palestinians. Like the two other major parties, the NDP supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. In addition, the NDP specifically opposes, “Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.” Mulcair responded sympathetically to the Palestinian request for statehood status at the United Nations (UN) in 2012, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper vehemently opposed it.

2. Support for Israel. Mulcair supports Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, even when a political cost must be paid. He has successfully sidelined a small, but vocal, anti-Israel element within his party. Harper is often cited as a strong ally of Israel, but I have my doubts as I explained in the Times of Israel. I think that the mature and dignified approach of Mulcair is more valuable to Israel and to peace.

Being pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel at the same time is a significant challenge in a conflict that is very polarized, but Mulcair is in a better position than either of the two other leaders to meet that challenge.

3. Balanced on the Middle East. Mulcair’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014 showed a deep concern for Palestinian casualties, but at the same time, he did not waver in his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists. Being pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel at the same time is a significant challenge in a conflict that is very polarized, but Mulcair is in a better position than either of the two other leaders to meet that challenge. Canada is not a major player in the Middle East, but if we can ever help mediate between the two sides, Mulcair would be more credible than Harper.

4. Cautious about military interventions. I have argued in the past that the NDP erred in not supporting military action against Daesh (ISIS), but the NDP has supported other military actions, such as the Canadian mission in Libya under a UN mandate to protect civilians. The NDP makes these decisions on a case-by-case basis, but it is clear that it is less keen on military interventions than Harper who had supported the disastrous U.S. intervention against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

The new anti-terrorism legislation has been denounced by a long list of legal experts ... The NDP is the only major party to oppose the bill.

5. Bill C-51.The new anti-terrorism legislation has been denounced by a long list of legal experts who wrote that it, “vastly expands the scope of covert state activity when that activity will be subject to poor or even non-existent democratic oversight or review,” and by the privacy commissioner of Canada who said that, “measures in the bill to protect against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient.” The NDP is the only major party to oppose the bill.

6. Mulcair’s experience and capability. Those who do not support Harper’s policies, particularly on the environment and on scientific research, will look for an alternative, and Mulcair, who has experience in government and who is knowledgeable on many issues, is a more credible choice than the Liberals' Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has never been elected to any post, not even as a school board trustee, before he was elected Member of Parliament in 2008. Since then, Trudeau has shown poor political judgement, making several gaffes that embarrassed his party, including an inappropriate sexual joke during a debate about the serious topic of Daesh.

7. Support for manufacturing sector and small businesses. Mulcair has pledged to support Canada’s manufacturing industry and small businesses. These sectors provide good jobs and business opportunities to new immigrants.

Mulcair took a bold stand against the “charter of values” that was proposed by the Parti Quebecois in 2013, despite the potential electoral cost to the NDP in Quebec.

8. Support for minority rights. Mulcair took a bold stand against the “charter of values” that was proposed by the Parti Quebecois in 2013, despite the potential electoral cost to the NDP in Quebec. He declared, “What we have today is an attempt to impose state-mandated discrimination against minorities in the Quebec civil service. That for us is an absolute non-starter.”

9. Strong social policies while fiscally conservative. The NDP is notorious for its concern for the working class and the disadvantaged, but also has had an excellent record of fiscal conservatism during its tenures in provincial governments. This dual approach helps new immigrants who are struggling to find jobs and make ends meet.

10. Support for immigrants and refugees. New Democrats support immigrants and refugees, not only in theory, but also in practice. In the case of gay Palestinian John Calvin who is seeking refugee status, I have personally contacted all three parties, but three weeks later, only the NDP MPs have taken the time to respond, ask questions and try to help.

The Conservative government is increasingly arrogant, secretive and unimaginative. The Liberal party failed to rebuild itself and is instead attempting to rely on a glamorous name in order to seduce what it appears to believe is a naïve electorate. I do not expect miracles from any government, but I believe that under the pragmatic and experienced leadership of Mulcair, now is finally the right time to give the New Democrats a chance.


Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at http://www.jpost.com/Blogger/Fred-Maroun and http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/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
Thursday, 09 October 2014 10:12

Confronting ISIS: The NDP has Lost its Way

by Fred Maroun in Ottawa

It is very clear by now to anyone paying attention that the group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is an extremely violent organization promoting a fanatical ideology and quickly expanding across the Middle East with the intention of reaching into Europe and beyond (it has already made explicit threats against Canada). ISIS is also allied with like-minded organizations from around the world, including Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Taliban in Pakistan.

The threat posed by ISIS to the world and particularly the Middle East is urgent and undeniable. ISIS is known to engage in gruesome mass killings in an effort to ethnically cleanse groups that they consider undesirables, including Christians and including Muslims who do not abide by their brand of Islam. ISIS has two important elements that make it into a world threat that must not be ignored: its drive to massacre groups that it considers undesirable, and its drive to expand its empire to the whole world.

I am surprised and disappointed that the party of David Lewis and Tommy Douglas refuses to stand up for the minorities who are under assault by ISIS and refuses to engage in a war that may determine the future of much of the world.

Nazi Germany

To find an equivalent organization in scope and extremism, we need to go back to Nazi Germany at the start of World War II. The main difference between them is that Germany’s first target was Europe whereas ISIS’s first target is the Middle East, but to anyone who considers that the lives of all individuals (Arabs or Europeans, Muslims or Christians) have the same value, this difference is hardly relevant.

No reasonable person would suggest today that Canada should not have been engaged militarily in the coalition against Nazi Germany, yet both opposition parties, while acknowledging that ISIS is a dangerous and criminal organization, stood in Parliament and voted against military involvement by Canada. They voted to let other members of the coalition do the work of combatting this threat, and they voted to not have Canada offer even the small symbolic military contribution that the Conservative government of Canada has offered as part of the coalition.

Stand down

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau left the door open to supporting Canada’s military involvement at a later date, presumably when it appears safe to do so without losing popular support. New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair went even further and left no door open. Mulcair made it clear that he has no interest in pursuing any military involvement against ISIS, now or in the future.

Today the NDP is no longer anybody’s conscience; and it also does not have the electoral appeal of the Liberal party either.

The opportunistic Liberal position does not surprise me because it is fairly consistent with traditional Liberal politics, although Bob Rae, a former New Democrat, was a temporary and far-too-short breath of fresh air. I am, however, surprised and disappointed that the party of David Lewis and Tommy Douglas refuses to stand up for the minorities who are under assault by ISIS and refuses to engage in a war that may determine the future of much of the world.

NDP of the past

When faced with the threat of Nazi Germany, the NDP of the past (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, CCF at the time), firmly supported Canada’s war effort. Tommy Douglas, later to be the leader of the NDP, even enlisted in the army to fight the Nazis. Douglas stated the following in Canada’s House of Commons in 1939: “If you accept the completely absolutist position of the pacifist, then you are saying that you are prepared to allow someone else who has no such scruples to destroy all the values you've built up. […] if you came to a choice between losing freedom of speech, religion, association, thought, and all the things that make life worth living, and resorting to force, you'd used force.” (Stewart, Walter (2003), Tommy: the life and politics of Tommy Douglas).

Canada’s official opposition is essentially saying today that peoples of the Middle East should fend for themselves while Canada sends only humanitarian aid and sits tight while hoping for the best. The NDP did not take that stand when the peoples in a similar danger were Europeans, but today that peoples of the Middle East are losing “freedom of speech, religion, association, thought, and all the things that make life worth living” and often their lives as well, the NDP is content to do nothing.

Canada’s official opposition is essentially saying today that peoples of the Middle East should fend for themselves while Canada sends only humanitarian aid and sits tight while hoping for the best.

One could argue that this is an indication of NDP discrimination against Arabs, but I think that it simply a sign that the NDP of today is not the same principled and forthright party as the party of Tommy Douglas, David Lewis, and M.J. Coldwell. The NDP is today, as it has been for the last two or three decades, a party dominated by radical leftist ideologues with little connection to average working people. Upon the election of Mulcair as leader of the NDP, there was much hope that he would move the party back to its principled roots.

Sadly, it appears that Mulcair has no will or no ability to stand up to the party’s radicals, and he has adopted without question the “absolutist position of the pacifist” which Douglas had denounced.The NDP was once the conscience of Canada while the Liberal party was widely known as an opportunistic party that would steal NDP ideas once they became popular. Today, the NDP is no longer anybody’s conscience; and it does not have the electoral appeal of the Liberal party either.

It is a party without a purpose and without a future, a party that is captive to ivory tower activists who think that supporting Arabs and Muslims is somehow the same as promoting hatred of Israel. Whether the war with ISIS brings an end to ISIS or not is still an open question, but it seems that it has already claimed its first victim in Canada: the relevance of the New Democratic Party.

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

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 Fred Maroun in Ottawa

One question that often comes up in the ongoing (and third) war between Israel and Hamas is the issue of proportionality.  As of this writing, Haaretz estimates that 650 Palestinians and 29 Israelis have been killed.  Not surprisingly, the rest of the world asks, 'Why is the toll so lop-sided?'

The discrepancy in the casualty toll (dead and injured) is due to a number of factors:

  • Israel has built an anti-rocket system called Iron Dome that is very effective at intercepting rockets and destroying them before they can reach populated areas.
  • Israel has built shelters for its civilian population and trained its citizens on using them when they hear sirens warning about the launching of rockets. Thanks to Iron Dome and to civilian shelters, in the current count of Israeli casualties, only two are civilians.
  • Hamas’ strategy is to ensure that many Palestinian civilians die in order to increase external pressures on Israel to accept Hamas’ terms, which are the release of convicted criminals and the end of Israel’s blockade on weapons to Gaza.  This death strategy is meant to further Hamas’ ultimate goal of destroying Israel and eliminating all Jewish presence in the Middle East.  To reach its desired high count of Palestinian civilian casualties, Hamas uses its civilians as human shields and forces them to stand near likely military targets, and it uses schools and hospitals to store ammunition and fire rockets.
  • Despite the high number of Palestinian casualties and Hamas’ best efforts at increasing its own civilian casualties, a large number of these fatalities are Hamas terrorists (accurate estimates are not available at this time).  This is due to Israel’s extensive efforts at avoiding civilian casualties.
  • The number of reported casualties on the Israeli side does not account for Israelis who have died or have had serious medical problems as a result of panic during rocket attacks.

Irrelevant question

Besides all of the above, the question of proportionality is largely irrelevant.  Israel is attacking Hamas in order to stop rocket attacks into Israel, and, as both Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird and Liberal critic Marc Garneau recently said, Israel has the right and even the duty to defend its citizens.  Despite Iron Dome and civilian shelters, the rockets still terrorize Israeli citizens and cause damage to the Israeli economy.  No sovereign nation on earth would accept that its citizens be terrorized without attempting to stop the attacks.  The fact that Palestinians have far more casualties than Israel isn’t relevant because Israel does not target civilians, and every civilian death is the result of Hamas’ own strategy.

The low number of Israeli casualties is not due to lack of trying on Hamas’ part.  If Hamas rockets were not intercepted by Iron Dome, the number of Israeli casualties would be far higher than Palestinian casualties.  If a Hamas rocket managed to reach a large building in Tel Aviv and killed thousands of Israeli civilians, would that mean that by virtue of proportionality Israel would now be justified in killing thousands of Palestinian civilians?  Of course it would not be justified, and the Palestinian Authority that is almost silent on Hamas crimes would be sure to remind Israel of that.

Death strategy

The war in Gaza is not a football game.  When Germany beat Brazil 7-1 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, near the end of the game many German fans felt sorry for Brazil because they did not want to humiliate Brazilians.  In that case, speaking of proportionality made sense – there is no need for Germany to win by a huge margin in order to win the cup; however, the war in Gaza is not a game.  It is an attempt by Israel to stop terrorist attacks on its citizens.  If Israel stopped its operation without reaching its objective simply because of a desire to maintain some misplaced proportionality, Israelis would continue to be terrorized by Hamas rockets and sooner or later Israel would have to fight Hamas again with probably even higher death tolls.

The only solution to end repeated wars in Gaza is to stop Hamas and its allies from attacking Israel.  The preferred way to achieve this is to replace the Hamas rule in Gaza with a moderate leadership that is interested in negotiating peace with Israel, but this is not a change that Israel can impose.  Palestinians must make this change with the help of their friends, but those friends have been too busy excusing Hamas’ actions and blaming Israel.  Until this change happens, Israel will have no choice but to keep fighting Hamas in order to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, and while Israel is protecting itself, every death on both sides must be attributed to Hamas’ death strategy.

Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Lebanese origin who has been living in Canada for 30 years. Maroun is interested in Middle East politics, particularly the Israel / Arab conflict. This comment is a slightly edited version of his blogpost here.

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

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