Erin O’Toole is talking about Islamophobia. Has he changed his tune?

OTTAWA — When Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole addressed thousands of mourners grieving the loss of a Muslim family killed in what police say was a hate-motivated attack, he opened by saying “Assalamu Alaikum” — an traditional Arabic phrase meaning “peace be upon you.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh gave the same greeting during their remarks at Tuesday’s vigil in London, Ont., but O’Toole was the only federal leader whose opening words were met with a chorus of loud boos. It wasn’t the only appeal O’Toole made to Canada’s Muslim community that day. He called the devastating incident — which took the lives of four people and seriously injured a nine-year-old boy — an act of terrorism. He recited a passage from the Quran. And he attributed the attack to a rise in Islamophobia. That word alone used to be controversial for the federal Conservatives. In 2017, almost all of the party’s MPs — along with the Bloc Québécois — voted against a Liberal motion to condemn Islamophobia, systemic racism and religious discrimination. Trudeau was not present for the vote.O’Toole, then a contender in the party’s 2017 leadership race, opposed the wording of the motion sponsored by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid. The motion, known as M-103, referenced a House of Commons petition that called on the lower chamber to recognize “all forms” of Islamophobia.At the time, O’Toole felt the term was being used too broadly. He argued that criticism of the faith could be stifled, and sought to amend the motion to strike a better balance between upholding religious freedom and free speech. Other than Michael Chong, all Conservative MPs ultimately voted against the motion.But observers say the messaging of the past week doesn’t necessarily signal a changing tide within the party.“I just don’t feel like this is this big, monumental shift, where [O’Toole] is suddenly talking about these issues now,” said Alykhan Velshi, a senior aide to prime minister Stephen Harper and provincial conservative leaders who now works for Huawei Canada.“I personally think that he’s been committed to stamping out bigotry and Islamophobia for a long time.”Velshi, a Muslim who backed O’Toole in last year’s leadership race, told the Star he believes the party’s decision to vote against the Liberal motion was a mistake. “That having been said, I think it’s very disingenuous the way that some elected parliamentarians are using M-103 as a political cudgel while remaining silent on Bill 21.”While some federal leaders have criticized Bill 21, the Quebec secularism law that prohibits people from wearing religious symbols when providing public services, politicians across the board have hesitated to weigh in on the law because it falls under provincial jurisdiction. In the early weeks of his leadership, O’Toole was singled out by the National Council of Canadian Muslims for hiding behind that jurisdictional shield, leading him to clarify that he was personally opposed to the law without taking more of an active position.“I hope there are no statues put up of politicians today who are silent on Bill 21, because I think they’re going to be torn down in my lifetime,” Velshi said.But the former adviser also cited some inroads the party has made to make the Tory tent, which is not known for its diversity, more inclusive. “I remember during Ramadan, the amount of iftar invitations that came my way which either Erin was attending, or his MPs or his candidates ... was sort of overwhelming,” Velshi recalled. “They’ve certainly, in my opinion, gone out of their way to reach out to Muslim Canadians.”Conservative human rights critic Garnett Genuis told the Star that the party is also taking steps to “remove any barriers or perceptions” that could hold people back from joining or supporting the party. There are currently no Muslim MPs in the Conservative caucus, although the party says it has identified four Muslim candidates to run in the next election and its efforts are ongoing.Genuis also referenced the party’s caucus retreat following the 2019 federal election, during which members of the Muslim community met with Conservative MPs to discuss combating online hate.Genuis said efforts to bring other Muslim groups onside have only “ramped up” under O’Toole’s leadership.The party has, for example, worked with the Muslim community to gather signatures to table petitions in the House of Commons supporting Uyghurs facing human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province. “[O’Toole] comes from a Greater Toronto Area riding, and the leader has many longtime friends from the Muslim community, some of whom are taking on key roles as part of our team,” Genuis added. One of them is Walied Soliman, O’Toole’s national campaign chair, who told the Star earlier this week that he was “very happy” when he heard the leader mention Islamophobia for the first time. Despite the sentiment from some that the Conservative party has aligned itself with Muslim Canadians in recent years, at

Erin O’Toole is talking about Islamophobia. Has he changed his tune?

OTTAWA — When Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole addressed thousands of mourners grieving the loss of a Muslim family killed in what police say was a hate-motivated attack, he opened by saying “Assalamu Alaikum” — an traditional Arabic phrase meaning “peace be upon you.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh gave the same greeting during their remarks at Tuesday’s vigil in London, Ont., but O’Toole was the only federal leader whose opening words were met with a chorus of loud boos.

It wasn’t the only appeal O’Toole made to Canada’s Muslim community that day. He called the devastating incident — which took the lives of four people and seriously injured a nine-year-old boy — an act of terrorism. He recited a passage from the Quran. And he attributed the attack to a rise in Islamophobia.

That word alone used to be controversial for the federal Conservatives. In 2017, almost all of the party’s MPs — along with the Bloc Québécois — voted against a Liberal motion to condemn Islamophobia, systemic racism and religious discrimination. Trudeau was not present for the vote.

O’Toole, then a contender in the party’s 2017 leadership race, opposed the wording of the motion sponsored by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid. The motion, known as M-103, referenced a House of Commons petition that called on the lower chamber to recognize “all forms” of Islamophobia.

At the time, O’Toole felt the term was being used too broadly. He argued that criticism of the faith could be stifled, and sought to amend the motion to strike a better balance between upholding religious freedom and free speech. Other than Michael Chong, all Conservative MPs ultimately voted against the motion.

But observers say the messaging of the past week doesn’t necessarily signal a changing tide within the party.

“I just don’t feel like this is this big, monumental shift, where [O’Toole] is suddenly talking about these issues now,” said Alykhan Velshi, a senior aide to prime minister Stephen Harper and provincial conservative leaders who now works for Huawei Canada.

“I personally think that he’s been committed to stamping out bigotry and Islamophobia for a long time.”

Velshi, a Muslim who backed O’Toole in last year’s leadership race, told the Star he believes the party’s decision to vote against the Liberal motion was a mistake.

“That having been said, I think it’s very disingenuous the way that some elected parliamentarians are using M-103 as a political cudgel while remaining silent on Bill 21.”

While some federal leaders have criticized Bill 21, the Quebec secularism law that prohibits people from wearing religious symbols when providing public services, politicians across the board have hesitated to weigh in on the law because it falls under provincial jurisdiction.

In the early weeks of his leadership, O’Toole was singled out by the National Council of Canadian Muslims for hiding behind that jurisdictional shield, leading him to clarify that he was personally opposed to the law without taking more of an active position.

“I hope there are no statues put up of politicians today who are silent on Bill 21, because I think they’re going to be torn down in my lifetime,” Velshi said.

But the former adviser also cited some inroads the party has made to make the Tory tent, which is not known for its diversity, more inclusive.

“I remember during Ramadan, the amount of iftar invitations that came my way which either Erin was attending, or his MPs or his candidates ... was sort of overwhelming,” Velshi recalled. “They’ve certainly, in my opinion, gone out of their way to reach out to Muslim Canadians.”

Conservative human rights critic Garnett Genuis told the Star that the party is also taking steps to “remove any barriers or perceptions” that could hold people back from joining or supporting the party. There are currently no Muslim MPs in the Conservative caucus, although the party says it has identified four Muslim candidates to run in the next election and its efforts are ongoing.

Genuis also referenced the party’s caucus retreat following the 2019 federal election, during which members of the Muslim community met with Conservative MPs to discuss combating online hate.

Genuis said efforts to bring other Muslim groups onside have only “ramped up” under O’Toole’s leadership.

The party has, for example, worked with the Muslim community to gather signatures to table petitions in the House of Commons supporting Uyghurs facing human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province.

“[O’Toole] comes from a Greater Toronto Area riding, and the leader has many longtime friends from the Muslim community, some of whom are taking on key roles as part of our team,” Genuis added.

One of them is Walied Soliman, O’Toole’s national campaign chair, who told the Star earlier this week that he was “very happy” when he heard the leader mention Islamophobia for the first time.

Despite the sentiment from some that the Conservative party has aligned itself with Muslim Canadians in recent years, at least one of the party’s top MPs expressed regret this week over her response to anti-Muslim hate in the past.

“While I’ve since spoken out on it, one of my biggest regrets in my public service was being silent during the 2015 general election campaign on the wrongness of the barbaric cultural practices tip line, and the proposed niqab ban,” Alberta MP Michelle Rempel Garner wrote on her website Tuesday.

“Those policies were wrong. To the Muslim community, I’m deeply sorry for not fighting it then. I can assure you I won’t make the same mistake again.”

The Conservative health critic also referenced the speech she made in the Commons during that oft-cited debate on M-103.

“If I could give that speech again, I would,” she wrote. “This time I would simply say this; the discrimination the Muslim community faces in Canada is real and must be stopped.”

Raisa Patel is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Gov. Abbott Says Texas Plans To Build Southern Border Wall

During a summit on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott said he will announce plans next week for Texas to begin building a wall along the southern border.

Gov. Abbott Says Texas Plans To Build Southern Border Wall

DEL RIO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – During a summit on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott said he will announce plans next week for Texas to begin building a wall along the southern border.

“I will announce next week the plan for the state of Texas to begin building the border wall in the state of Texas,” Abbott said.

Details such as costs and location were not immediately said by the governor as there are plans for an announcement.

The governor and other law enforcement agencies took part in a summit on Thursday about security along the southern border.

During the summit, Abbott announced initiatives to address border concerns such as creating the Governor’s Task Force on Border and Homeland Security, as well as a $1 billion allocation towards border security.

The task force will include members from the Department of Public Safety, Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Military Department.

The governor also announced that people who enter the state illegally will be subject to arrest for trespassing.

Abbott blamed the Biden administration’s policies for the surge in migrants coming into Texas.

“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows. The state is working collaboratively with communities impacted by the crisis to arrest and detain individuals coming into Texas illegally,” Abbott said. “Our efforts will only be effective if we work together to secure the border, make criminal arrests, protect landowners, rid our communities of dangerous drugs, and provide Texans with the support they need and deserve. This is an unprecedented crisis, and Texas is responding with the most robust and comprehensive border plan the nation has ever seen.”

According to the governor, the summit in Del Rio involved Texas sheriffs, police chiefs, county judges, mayors and landowners hearing from state officials on these particular efforts.

Remarks were delivered by Abbott, Texas Division of Emergency Management Nim Kidd, Major General Tracy Norris of the Texas Military Department and Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw.

Source : CBS Dallas More   

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