TORONTO — As hundreds of people gathered in Toronto on Friday to protest a controversial citizenship law in India, some members of the city’s Indian community say a rise in divisive politics have created tensions here in Canada.
Multiple people have been killed in the South Asian nation over the past week as public anger swells over a citizenship law that critics say excludes Muslims and threatens the country’s secular democracy.
The law allows Hindus, Christians and people from other religious minorities who are in India illegally from neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to apply for citizenship. However the legislation introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government does not include Muslims.
It comes after multiple other controversial moves in the majority-Hindu country, including an ongoing crackdown in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.
Divyani Motla was one of those who braved chilly temperatures to attend a rally at the Indian consulate in downtown Toronto on Friday. The Indian student at the University of Toronto said it was important for her to take part as a member of India’s Hindu majority.
Motla said she’s seen a rise in hateful political discourse in Canada amongst Indian communities, and says that Muslim Indians she knows have taken the brunt of it.
“There’s an aggressive Hindu right that has grown in the West,” said Motla. “The citizenship act has been quite a contentious issue to talk about.”
Sanober Umar, a history PhD candidate at Queen’s University, said she’s seen the aggressive side of the political discourse firsthand.
Umar said she was harassed online after speaking at an academic event in April, when she was critical of some of Modi’s policies in India.
She said Modi supporters tried to cancel the event and complained about it to the Indian consulate and Umar’s school.
Dozens of protesters showed up to try to disrupt the talk and several sent her death and rape threats afterwards, Umar said.
“In the past few years, there has been a rise of right-wing Indian immigrants … who have been on the ground accusing anyone who speaks against Narendra Modi of being anti-Indian and anti-immigrant,” said Umar.
“They’re trying to manufacture this discourse that anyone who challenges the BJP is essentially anti-India or Hindu-phobic,” she said, referring to the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party.
Nasser Khan, who was born and raised in India but identifies as Canadian, said he’s become more hesitant about travelling back to the country as he says anti-Muslim policies continue to roll out.
“When you visit, you don’t feel safe, you don’t feel comfortable the way you used to a couple of years ago,” said Khan, who lives in the Greater Toronto Area.
“You’re not able to express what you want, if you question the government you’re labelled an anti-nationalist right away.”
He said that he’s also seen divisive politics spread throughout the Indian community in Canada, especially through social media.
“There’s a lot of hateful posts that I see from people living in Canada and originating in India,” said Khan.
“It concerns me, because this country is different from back home and people still carry that baggage here.”
At the Toronto protest, Motla said that she’s also been told by her parents that she might be safer staying in Canada for the time being.
“It’s upsetting and heartbreaking when your family is telling you to not come back, because it’s not the country you were in before,” she said.
— with files from The Associated Press
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Tory leadership hopefuls say it’s time for unity. Here’s what some say that means
OTTAWA — When three Conservative leadership hopefuls met this past week for a debate, the same word kept getting repeated.
Unity. Or more precisely, the need for it.
In a contest largely seen as a battle for the party’s soul, which has put decades-old fissures on display between groups that make up its very coalition, what might it take to achieve unity after results are revealed Sept. 10?
As that question lingers, many in the party and beyond are preparing for a scenario in which Pierre Poilievre takes victory.
Much of that thinking is based on the longtime MP’s popularity with the existing grassroots, coupled with his ability to draw big crowds and sell what his campaign claims to have been more than 300,000 memberships.
But after winning comes the challenge of leading.
“Somebody has to give some thought to the morning after,” said Garry Keller, former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, who served as the party’s interim leader after it lost government in 2015.
Of the 118 other members in caucus, a whopping 62 endorsed Poilievre. That’s compared to the party’s 2020 leadership race when the caucus was more evenly split between Peter MacKay and the eventual winner, Erin O’Toole.
O’Toole’s inability to manage caucus after losing the 2021 election to the Liberals ultimately led to his downfall. He was forced out by a vote from his MPs under provisions in the Reform Act, measures which will remain in place for the next leader.
Poilievre has said his campaign message of “freedom” serves as a great unifier among Conservatives. However, Keller said if some in caucus are taking that to mean they will be able to say whatever they want on social media, they shouldn’t.
“I think people will be solely disabused of that notion.”
Poilievre and his supporters have throughout the race been accused of sowing disunity in the party by instigating personal attacks against rivals, namely ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest.
Most recently, MPs endorsing Poilievre — along with Scott Aitchison, a rural Ontario representative and fellow leadership competitor — have called into question whether Charest, who has spent the past 20 years out of federal politics, plans to stick around the party after the race is over.
Longtime British Columbia MP Ed Fast, a co-chair on Charest’s campaign, tweeted “the purity tests must stop” and cautioned party members that when Conservatives are divided, Liberals win.
Fast himself resigned from his role as finance critic after criticizing Poilievre’s vow to fire the Bank of Canada governor, which ruffled some feathers inside caucus.
“It’s a sad situation that Jean Charest, a patriot and champion of Canadian unity, continues to have his loyalty questioned by party members looking to stoke division,” said Michelle Coates Mather, a spokeswoman for his campaign.
“What’s the endgame here exactly? Lose the next federal election by alienating Conservative members who support Charest? Seems a poor strategy for a party looking to expand their base and win a federal election.”
While Poilievre enjoys the majority support of the party’s caucus, most of the party’s 10 Quebec MPs are backing Charest, opening the question of what happens next if he is not successful.
Asked recently about that possibility, MP Alain Rayes, who is organizing on Charest’s campaign, expressed confidence in the former Quebec premier’s chances, saying the party doesn’t need “American-style divisive politics.”
“I’m deeply convinced that our members will make the right choice,” he said in a statement.
The group Centre Ice Conservatives, a centre-right advocacy group formed during the leadership race, contends the party has room to grow if it leaves the fringes and concentrates on issues that matter in the mainstream.
Director Michael Stuart says both Charest and Poilievre have policies that speak to the centrists, and what they’re hearing from supporters of their group is a desire for more focus on “dinner table issues,” such as economic growth and jobs.
“There’s a lot of distraction with noise around vaccines and the convoy and those sorts of things.”
Not only did Poilievre support the “Freedom Convoy,” he used his message of “freedom” to campaign on the anger and frustration people felt because of government-imposed COVID-19 rules, like vaccine and mask mandates.
How he will handle social conservatives also remains an open question.
Poilievre has pledged no government led by him would introduce or pass legislation restricting abortion access.
Jack Fonseca, director of political operations for the anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition, said many of those who strongly oppose vaccine mandates also share values with social conservatives.
“They are largely pro-freedom, pro-family, and yes, even pro-life and pro-faith,” he said.
Social conservatives have traditionally been a well-mobilized part of the party’s base during leadership contests and helped deliver wins for O’Toole and former leader Andrew Scheer, who is now helping Poilievre in the race.
While Fonseca and other anti-abortion groups are encouraging members to pick social conservative candidate Leslyn Lewis as their first choice, he said the “freedom conservatives” Poilievre recruited will expect results.
That includes giving Lewis a critic role, he said.
“He will be forced to face that reality and to deliver policy commitments to the freedom conservatives and social conservatives that are his base.”
“If it doesn’t, the peril is you become a flip-flopper like Erin O’Toole,” he said, referring to walk-backs the former leader made on promises after winning the leadership.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Former B.C. solicitor-general Rich Coleman is returning to politics – Terrace Standard
Two years after he retired, former B.C. Solicitor-General Rich Coleman is returning to politics, this time at the municipal level, with the “Elevate Langley Voters Association” civic party in the Township of Langley, according to an Elections B.C. register of elector organizations.
The register lists former Langley East MLA Coleman as the “authorized principal official” for the party.
While he has registered a civic party, whether Coleman will be running in the Oct. 15 election himself remains to be seen.
In a response to a Langley Advance Times query on Saturday, Aug. 6, Coleman confirmed he has been approached about running for mayor, but hasn’t decided yet.
“A lot of people have been on me to run for mayor,” Coleman told the Langley Advance Times.
“I’m seriously considering it.”
Coleman said he registered the Elevate Langley party when he did, because the Election B.C. deadline to register elector organizations for the pending municipal elections was Aug. 2, and he wanted to provide a vehicle for some potential Township candidates he has been mentoring.
“I’ve got some young folks who want to run,” Coleman said.
In the Elections B.C. register entry, Elevate Langley listed a contact phone number that turned out to be the office number for current Langley East MLA Megan Dykeman, who said she has no involvement with the party, calling it “absolutely an error.”
Coleman said he would check into it.
In 2018, Coleman was considering a run for Surrey mayor, but decided against it.
Coleman spent 24 years in provincial politics before he retired in 2020, including four years as provincial Solicitor-General.
Langley Township councillors Eric Woodward and Blair Whitmarsh have also announced mayoralty bids. So has former councillor Michelle Sparrow.
Elections B.C.’s register of civic parties listed Woodward as the principal official for the “Contract with Langley Association” party, which, the filing indicates, will be fielding candidates for council and school board.
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