Evidence of meeting #84 for Canadian Heritage in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was discrimination.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Bruce Clemenger  President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Julia Beazley  Director, Public Policy, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Frank Huang  National Secretary-General, National Congress of Chinese Canadians
Ali Rizvi  Author, As an Individual
Sergeant David Zackrias  Head, Diversity and Race Relations, Ottawa Police Service

4:25 p.m.

President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Bruce Clemenger

I think the way to address it is, again, as we proposed to her in terms of a conversation, a dialogue. I think it follows Mr. Huang's suggestion. We need to get to know each other better. We need to have more places of engagement. I think it's the government in terms of a whole-of-government approach. The government needs to model that by having regular deep conversations with people of a variety of faiths. We suggested some type of all-faith, interfaith, multi-faith dialogue group that government leaders regularly meet with, and begin to understand who they are, and that Canada includes these people, that the language of politicians should not be exclusive but inclusive.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Is that enough? I guess my question was going to be, you're talking about the importance of including faith in public policy-making. Around the world, we see the role religion plays in terms of foreign affairs and conflicts, human rights, and all those kinds of things. Do you have any suggestion about a specific tool that we might be able to recommend? Are you simply saying it's good enough to have these discussion groups and sit down, or do you have something more specific that you'd say to the government, like “Here's a tool or a specific protocol that you should use when you're setting policy, so that this is included as part of the discussion.”?

4:30 p.m.

President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Bruce Clemenger

I think what would be wonderful is if they followed the idea of having a multi-faith, interfaith cluster adviser group that could then work with the government in setting up protocols.

I know religion is very divisive, hence the response to Motion M-103. I can imagine the politicians are concerned about treading lightly—they need to tread lightly—or that they're concerned about engaging in areas of religious difference and talking about religion, because it's a minefield.

If you come to the faith groups, we'll help you meander through that minefield and set up protocols. I would have assumed that people in high public office should understand the nature of the deep pluralism of Canada both culturally and religiously, and that they understand what their role is, as public office holders, in showing a deep respect for all Canadians.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

I guess from our perspective, we'd argue that one of the places we tried to do that was the office of religious freedom in terms of foreign affairs. Thank you for the suggestion.

I'm going to wrap up because I think my time is almost gone. I'm interested in the media reaction to last week's comments. Mainstream media virtually had little comment and carried very little on this. Social media was really big, and it was very active.

Do you have any comments about the role of media in preserving religious freedom in our country over the next decade or two decades?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Peter Van Loan

I'm going to be a party-pooper and say you'll have to save that for later, because we're out of time.

We're on to the NDP round.

Ms. Kwan, you have seven minutes.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our presenters.

Mr. Huang, I'd like to first acknowledge that it took a lot of courage for you to present your experiences and own up to your own fears. I think all of us have those internal fears, because we don't know, and sometimes that level of ignorance brings us to a place where we don't even know that we may have these kinds of sentiments within us. I think it takes a lot of courage for someone to admit that and share that in the public realm, so I appreciate that and thank you for that.

I want to get into this a bit. I think in your presentation you mentioned that there were some postings in the Chinese social media where it was suggested that refugees who come are somehow receiving $8,000 a month.

Did I hear that correctly?

4:30 p.m.

National Secretary-General, National Congress of Chinese Canadians

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Also, that spread of misinformation is creating a division within the community. Can you expand on that a little for us?

4:30 p.m.

National Secretary-General, National Congress of Chinese Canadians

Frank Huang

It's a very good question. I have brought with me some documents. These are in Chinese, so I will answer in Chinese.

It was actually in October of this year. We know that in social media in the Chinese community, the prominent platform is called WeChat. There was somebody on this platform who claimed to be a TD employee from Montreal. This person uploaded a post saying that this person received at least 20 refugees to open bank accounts, and each of them receive $800 per month, so a family of 10 receives $8,000 per month. That's after tax. It's equivalent to $200,000 per year before taxes. It's definitely middle-class income.

We know that this is misleading and incorrect information. However, because it is on social media, a lot of people don't know what's true and what's not true. A lot of people felt very strongly about this, so they began to repost it to spread the fake posted information, and they began to express their hostile sentiments towards refugees and the Canadian government. It's very hard to regulate social media.

Earlier in my remarks, I suggested that maybe the government should have an agency or team to keep an eye on what's going on in the social media sphere, to detect problems early on and to stop the spread of rumours and lies in the community. That's an effective way to stop this fake information and to disseminate the true facts of the government. These kinds of negative impacts can be minimized. These negative sentiments are based on lies.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you for that clarification. It would be astounding for a refugee family to receive $8,000 a month from the government to the tune of $200,000 a year. It would be important to correct these kinds of things in all communities, so that we don't end up pitting the vulnerable against the vulnerable.

To that end, by way of monitoring the spread of this kind of information, you're recommending that the government should establish some sort of team to do this monitoring and to ensure that correct information is put forward. Am I correct in that?

4:35 p.m.

National Secretary-General, National Congress of Chinese Canadians

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I'm going to move on to my next area of questioning. You mentioned that there's a need for provincial and municipal governments to review their laws, policies, regulations with a lens on racial discrimination and religious discrimination. Should the federal government also have such a policy in place, so that when new legislation is being put forward, you view it through that lens in reviewing existing policies and laws?

4:35 p.m.

National Secretary-General, National Congress of Chinese Canadians

Frank Huang

In previous legislation, I believe there are indeed some clauses that carry a certain sentiment of racism and racial discrimination, including some historical facts. The government needs to review these laws and regulations to make sure that none of the laws and regulations in effect today carry any such message. If they do, they should be abolished.

If any new legislation is to be promulgated, the first thing that needs to be done is to view it through the lens of racism and religious discrimination. If there are any elements of that, the law should not be passed.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

With respect to enhancing communication, breaking down misinformation, and breaking down fear, would you suggest that the best mechanism would be a national strategy against racism and religious discrimination, with the government supporting programming in collaboration with NGOs to get this work done?

4:35 p.m.

National Secretary-General, National Congress of Chinese Canadians

Frank Huang

Yes, I think so. I believe multiculturalism is a critical component of the nature of Canada, so at the federal level there should be a policy and a mechanism to fight against racism and religious discrimination—without emphasis on any single religion.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Peter Van Loan

We're going to go to our last round of questions now. I believe it's Ms. Dabrusin.

November 6th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I want to thank all of you for coming today.

What I heard today brought to mind some testimony we had heard closer to the beginning about implicit bias and the need to confront our own bias. I believe it was the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers that talked about how you can draft your legislation as you will, but where there's discretion, there's still the opportunity for bias to operate. I believe that you've both touched a bit on that issue.

In my own community, I was talking with some people who have taken an implicit bias assessment test. It's a Harvard test to see how you can check your own biases. I was looking through the Ontario anti-racism strategic plan, and it refers to developing a professional anti-racism tool kit, specifically for detecting racism against indigenous peoples.

Taking into account all of that, what are your thoughts about the importance of developing a tool kit or means by which we can check our biases? As a federal government, is that something you think would be helpful?

I'll put that to both groups.

4:40 p.m.

National Secretary-General, National Congress of Chinese Canadians

Frank Huang

In terms of the tool kit, I think it's probably very difficult to find the perfect or the right tool to examine people's implicit inner discrimination. Once incidents happen, this implicit sentiment becomes explicit, so we need to pay particular attention to the effects of these kinds of incidents, racial incidents, and examine these cases and see how they are related to people's implicit sentiments.

That's why I suggested the government should set up a team to keep an eye on social media and know what's going on, what's being heatedly debated in the community, and to detect any language and sentiment early on and to examine the reasons behind it, to nip it in the bud.

4:40 p.m.

Director, Public Policy, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Julia Beazley

I think you would be challenged to come up with a tool kit that could possibly identify all racial and religious biases, but I like the idea of being very intentional about ensuring that, as legislators, as government, as policy-makers, you're aware of your biases. We talk about that a little bit in our brief. The state's job is to be non-sectarian and to recognize its biases—they're inevitable to some extent, but to be mindful of them and start to recognize where they are.

If there were a way to develop that kind of a mechanism to help sort of go through that process—where are our biases, where are they showing, and how can we address that—I think that would be a really valuable exercise. I don't know if I have any ideas of how that might be done.

4:40 p.m.

President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Bruce Clemenger

In some ways when I've been thinking about this in the last few months, I've asked myself if there are two solitudes in a different way from how the term was originally used: people of deep religious conviction and government and how the two intersect. We don't have a minister of religion. Would it be helpful to have an office or a council, as we're suggesting, a robust council, which has interaction with the government and groups?

But again, going back to Mr. Huang, I think he's right. A lot of it is interaction on the ground. If the government can help facilitate that, fine, but I think a lot of it is on the backs of regular Canadian citizens. We engage, and we've been 25 years involved in an interfaith coalition of Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus, so part of it is not only doing it but also letting other people know it's there.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I understand you are saying that the differentiation is more—and both of you, in fact, have raised it—different ways of bringing people together to learn more about one another and talk to one another. The implicit bias assessment test that I was talking about, which Harvard has developed, is more about a chance for people to take some reflection about their own. It's actually pretty neat because it also times how long it takes to answer questions as part of the test. It's an interesting piece, and I was interested by this tool kit.

In any event, I have agreed to share some time with Mr. Fragiskatos, so I will turn it over to him.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Peter Van Loan

You have one minute and 40 seconds.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

I'll get right to it. I'm not a regular member of this committee, but I have been following the discussion very closely.

Mr. Clemenger, in your opening remarks you did mention hate crime attacks carried out against Muslim Canadians. You would acknowledge that there has been an increase in that regard, a very large-scale increase according to Statistics Canada—253% is the number it has come up with when comparing the number of hate crime attacks carried out in 2012 as compared to 2015. Do you acknowledge this?

4:45 p.m.

President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Bruce Clemenger

Yes. We actually were in a number of multi-faith coalitions that involved Muslim imams. We had regular communication with them and we worked together closely. We not only know the stats, but also we engage with Muslims in Canada.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

To my way of thinking—and this reflects also what I'm hearing in my community in London, Ontario, not only from Londoners who practise Islam but beyond that—when we have a group of Canadians that is facing this kind of situation, I think it makes a great deal of sense for a motion to be brought forward, as it was, and for a committee here to study the situation, to get to the bottom of exactly what is driving this. I would love to chat more, but I think I have probably 45 seconds.

Mr. Huang, thank you very much for your testimony.