I’m so proud! We’re so great! Yay us!

Our MP, Ahmed Hussen, has been much in the news this past week. As the Immigration Minister, he has been busy putting out fires as Trump takes a torch to years of American refugee policy.

On the whole, the coverage is positive, even glowing—but Hussen has been drawing criticism for not allowing more refugees into Canada. His response: “We don’t develop policy on the fly”. Fair enough: the government is already struggling to bring refugees in as quickly as sponsors will welcome them.

Yet Hussen, though new to his position, has quickly mastered the art of not answering a direct question. On Tuesday, he was asked, quite simply: will Trudeau condemn Trump’s dangerous, racist policies, yes or no? Hussen’s answer:

[W]e are very proud of our record of being open and welcoming to refugees and immigrants as a way to meet our international obligations, but also viewing immigration as a great ingredient for our economic prosperity. We will continue that tradition. We will make sure that we continue to be open to people and ideas. We will continue to thank Canadians for their generosity and continue to welcome Syrian and other refugees.

Wait, wait! That’s the answer to a different questionHussen was asked whether Trudeau would stand up to Trump, not whether Canada would continue to welcome Syrian refugees.

But about that. Will we?

Well, maybe. Hussen wouldn’t answer how many Yazidi refugees will be resettled, nor whether LGBT refugees will be hurried. He wouldn’t raise the cap on church- and community-sponsored refugees either.

He did, however, find time to commend his own government. And you. You’re great. He said so six times. We should be “proud” of being “welcoming”, “generous”, “welcoming” (again), “compassionate”, “welcoming” (three times), and “proud”.

How great we all are seems to have become a Liberal talking point or a verbal tick.

In fact, that I propose a drinking game: every time Hussen,—or any Liberal—tries to hypnotize us by telling us to be proud of what we are legally and morally required to do, we do a shot.

God knows, this week makes me want a drink.


Here’s a selection of from Hussen’s speeches, just from the past three days! 

 

Canada can be proud of its tradition of being an open society that welcomes refugees.
Canada’s refugee system is recognized as being one of the most compassionate and generous systems in the world.
Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of our record of being open and welcoming to refugees
Mr. Speaker, Canada continues to be a welcoming country to newcomers, including those refugees fleeing persecution and war.
Mr. Speaker, our government has been recognized widely as being a great government for welcoming and resettling refugees from across the world.
… we are proud of the fact that Canadians continue to be generous to those seeking protection.

 

Pearen rink is open

The Pearen Park rink is open now and, for, depending on whom or what you ask, perhaps 6 more weeks.

Fri.  Feb 3

OPEN: lessons 4-6 pm

Sat. Feb 4

OPEN: lessons 1-5 pm

Sun. Feb 5

 Closed… due to mild weather

Mon-Tues. 6 & 7

OPEN: lessons 4-6 pm

Wed. Feb 8

Not sure – depends on temp

Thur-Fri. 9 & 10

OPEN: lessons 4-6 pm

Sat-Sun. 11 & 12

OPEN: lessons 1-5 pm

Mon-Wed.13 – 15

OPEN: lessons 4-6 pm

Trump’s vile policies reach Weston

Protestor in Washington, DC. Photo by Laurie Shaull.
Protestor in Washington, DC. Photo by Laurie Shaull.

Donald Trump’s repugnant policies reached right into Weston this week. Our MP, Ahmed Hussen, who is the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, had to deal with the prospect of dual citizens, permanent residents, and in-transit travellers unable to go to the US after Donald Trump signed a travel ban.

Bizarrely, Hussen even had to consider whether he, the Minister of Immigration, might be unable to travel there.

Asked about his own situation and whether he worried that he might be blocked from travelling to the U.S. because of his birthplace:

“Yes, I was born in Somalia, but I took my oath of citizenship to this country 15 years ago. And I’m a Canadian. I’ve spent most of my life here and I continue to be proud of our country our ability to be generous and to view those who seek protection.”

Hussen, though a Canadian citizen, fled to Canada as a refugee when he was a teen. Somalia is one of the seven predominantly-Muslim countries whose citizens are now disallowed entry into America.

Though Hussen did not “bluntly denounce” Trump’s policy, he did say “Canada is a country of immigrants…. We have always welcomed people in need and will continue to do so.”

Laura Albanese, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, reiterated that commitment today in a news release. She said:

I spoke to the federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, and reiterated Ontario’s open door stance with respect to receiving immigrants and refugees from all countries, irrespective of race, ethnicity or faith.

We will proudly continue to welcome people from all parts of the world as we continue to create economic security and opportunity and develop the diverse and inclusive communities where all people thrive.

Body blow to SmartTrack

By nixing road tolls around Toronto, Kathleen Wynne failed to cauterize the arterial bleeding of a corpse-white SmartTrack plan that would have benefitted Weston and Mount Dennis. Wynne killed the tolls because she faces a tough reëlection fight next year.

The bill for the western part of SmartTrack was to have been roughly $2 billion. The province has promised to give Toronto $170 million a year in gas-tax money, short of the roughly already-inadequate $250 million tolls would have raised. The gas money will go to all transit in Toronto, not only SmartTrack.

Tory’s revised SmartTrack plan would have built an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT out toward the airport from the Mount Dennis station, connecting the west end to Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Pearson.

Tory did bring much of this pain on himself, promising a magical line that could leap deep valleys, tunnel far underground, and be built by 2021 without raising taxes. He complained to the press about being treated like a boy in short pants by Wynne—but boys do dream about trains.

 

 

8 Oak demolition opposed at City Council

8 oak streetThe demolition of 8 Oak Street will be opposed at City Council at the end of the month. Etobicoke York Community Council has asked the city to refuse a demolition permit and to find out whether the building should be added to the municipal heritage property list.

The Satin Finish development has been controversial. The developers had planned a small community of townhomes, but revised the plan to ask for more than five times as many residences. Now they are asking for 509 units, with apartment buildings and a retirement home. They are also asking to demolish the 85-year-old office building.

City Council will also be asked to oppose the division of 104X Wendell Avenue into two undersized properties.

New police action plan released

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders. (From cbc.ca)

The Way Forward was a catchy title used to describe best practices in Canadian palliative care, fostering success and innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador and as of today, the name of a report from Toronto Police. The report was seen to be a necessary response to a crisis of confidence in the force, the growing cost of policing and the need to adopt more modern policing methods.

It’s interesting that the public has known about the problems with Toronto Police for years. They  have known about the lack of involvement in communities, an overly belligerent response to situations requiring intelligence and finesse and a large body of evidence that police treat certain visible minorities differently. The cost of policing was also an issue that had risen relentlessly in the past few years. When Rob Ford ordered a pay freeze, then Chief Bill Blair just ignored him. Mayor Tory was able to appoint his own candidate as Chief and Mark Saunders has delivered the required report.

In addition to knowing about the problems, the public has known for a long time what the solutions were. Namely that police officers should become more visible, get out of the cruisers, crack down on gangs and gun crime, walk the beat and treat all people with respect. To some extent, there seems to be a willingness in the report to do this.

While the police should have a base in the community, large fortress police stations could be replaced by several storefronts. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change other than closing some stations.

The lucrative after-hours job of paid duty now sees 80% of cops on the Sunshine List. These jobs, such as supervising road works, could be done for a lot less by others. The report tackles this to some extent.

Police forces are notoriously difficult to turn around. Part of the problem is that the qualification to apply for the job is a mere Grade 12 diploma – a requirement unlikely to attract deep thinkers. Another is the overwhelmingly male (>80%) and white (>75%) component to the force. Yet another is the complete lack of psychological profiling for suitability. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change.

Training needs to be beefed up with the emphasis on the safety of the job – very few police officers are killed or injured compared to construction workers for example. In spite of this many officers react in situations where they show fear rather than courage and the consequences can be deadly for the public. There are several mentions of increased training in the report.

Will the new report turn things around? It’s nice to see that there is a set of specific recommendations that are time and performance based so that’s a good thing. The bad thing is that although the recommendations have timelines, many are vague and require more discussion and study. Look for little or no change on these.

Here are the recommendations in the report:

Recommendations 1-8 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 9-13 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 14-16 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 17-21 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 23-25 (Click to enlarge).

Let’s hope that real change is coming.

Read the official report summary here and the full report here.