Political figures were put on the spot, others had to throw in the towel. (Photo: 123RF)
Despite the health crisis that continues to occupy a large space this year, the corridors of Parliament have seen many twists and turns other than the COVID-19 pandemic.
Political figures were put on the spot, others had to throw in the towel. International issues were invited to the discussions, while early elections took center stage.
Governor-General in turmoil
On January 21, former astronaut Julie Payette resigned as governor general of Canada, amid scandals.
After months of being subjected to allegations of intimidation and causing a toxic work climate inside Rideau Hall, a report by Quintet Consulting Corporation put the final nail in his coffin.
“The information was screaming, screaming, aggressive behaviour, degrading comments and public insult,” reads the document, released a week after Payet’s departure.
In July, Justin Trudeau announced that the next governor-general would be none other than Inuit activist and diplomat Mary Simon, who thus became the first indigenous person to hold the position.
Her resume is impressive: In addition to her mandate as a Canadian ambassador to Denmark, she has been the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national Inuit organization, and the Makivik Foundation, which advocates for Inuit rights in Nunavik.
Ms. Simon has also received numerous honors, including the Order of Canada, the National Order of Quebec and eleven honorary doctorates.
But many Quebecers take the dim view that she does not speak French, despite her upbringing in northern Quebec. Over a thousand complaints are submitted to Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages, Raymond Tyberg. The latter concludes in his initial report that the “complaints are groundless”, since the Prime Minister, who chose the Governor-General, “is not a federal institution subject to the Official Languages Act”.
Ms. Simon responded to these criticisms that she did not learn French at the Federal Indigenous Day School she was to attend, and vowed to learn it as soon as possible.
After the governor-general recited her address from the throne in broken French in November, conservative Senator Claude Carignan introduced a bill requiring any new governor-general to “clearly understand both official languages”.
Groundhog Day in Parliament
After repeating for weeks that he has no intention of calling an early election, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally announced a ballot.
Following the September 20 vote, Parliament was virtually unchanged: the Liberal Party won five seats, and the New Democratic Party won only one. In turn, five independent deputies were not re-elected and filled a vacancy.
Upon receiving the results, Mr. Trudeau responded to the Canadians: “I heard you, you don’t want to talk about politics or elections anymore, you want us to focus on the work we have to do.”
Taliban seize power
As Mr Trudeau begins elections, the situation in Afghanistan becomes critical and the Taliban are marching towards Kabul, the country’s capital.
The Canadian government is critical of the plight of interpreters and other Afghans who have worked with the Canadian Forces, whose lives are now at risk.
An air bridge was deployed at Kabul airport from August 16 to 26. In all, more than 2,700 people have been evacuated, most of them Afghans at risk of Taliban reprisals. Many others are not so fortunate.
The liberals also promised to take in 20,000 refugees who have already fled the country.
As of December 15, 3,800 have arrived in Canada through the Special Immigration Program for Afghans Who Helped the Government of Canada, out of 14,705 applications received. In addition, another 2,080 have arrived thanks to a humanitarian programme.
Green Party setbacks
In October 2020, the Green Party elected Anami Paul to succeed leader Elizabeth May, making history with the first black woman to head a party represented in Parliament.
However, the honeymoon was short-lived, and one of the three Greens MPs, Jenica Atwin, criticized the party’s door for joining the Liberals in June 2021.
A few days ago, the president refused to denounce the words of one of his advisers, who publicly accused Green MPs of anti-Semitism. Ms. Atwin has posted a criticism of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians on social media.
Mrs. Paul receives an ultimatum from her party authorities threatening to confront her with a vote of confidence. The chef says she is a victim of racism and sexism. Multiple legal steps drain party coffers.
In this case, the formation enters the electoral campaign that started in mid-August. With few financial resources and a reputation tainted by infighting, Ms. Paul chose to focus on her constituency in Toronto.
Another sign of a leadership crisis, the Quebec wing of the party publishes its own program, without consulting the leader.
In the end, he is only fourth in his constituency, and the Greens receive only 2.3% of the vote, well below 6.5% in 2019. The party elects two deputies, one of fewer than in 2019.
Anami Ball announced her resignation on September 27, but did not make it official until a month and a half later.
The Green Party appointed astrophysicist Amita Kottner as interim leader, making him the first non-binary person to lead a federal party.
O’Toole in unstable land
Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole also faces a rift within his party, as his defeat in the September elections weakened his position.
Senator Dennis Butters launched a petition in November to speed up a vote of confidence in Mr. O’Toole’s leadership, which she accuses of “modifying or even completely reversing our political positions”.
The next day, Mr. O’Toole expelled Senator Butters from his party.
The petition was rejected by the party’s National Council, which considers the approach invalid.
If the trend continues, voting should only take place in 2023, at the party convention. In the meantime, the leader will have to maintain a balance between the conservative social wing of his party, and its desire to refocus it to reach a wider electorate.
The great return of the two of Michael
After more than 1,000 days of detention in China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor finally reached Canadian soil on September 25.
The two men were arrested in December 2018 and later charged with espionage.
A few days ago, Canada arrested a senior Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, at the behest of the United States, accusing him of fraud.
To many observers, Mikhail’s fate constitutes direct retaliation for the steps taken against Mrs. Meng.
Of course, they were released on the same day that the businesswoman was able to return to China.
Despite this, relations between the two countries have not improved, and Canada announced in December that it was joining the diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, which is of interest to diplomats rather than athletes. The movement was launched by the United States, which said it wanted to protest the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority, which has been described as “genocide”.
An uproar over the secular state law
More than two years after it was adopted by the Quebec National Assembly, the State Secularization Act continues to cause tensions in Ottawa.
During the leaders’ debate in English, mediator Chacchi Currel called Laws 96 and 21 “discriminatory” and suggested Quebec “has a racial problem” in a question put to bloc leader Yves Francois Blanchett, sparking outrage in the province.
The topic was brought back to the agenda in December, when an elementary teacher in Chelsea, Ottaway, was given other assignments because she was wearing a hijab.
A few days later, the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Ray, wrote on Twitter that the law “has a very discriminatory meaning” and that it contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Furious, Mr. Blanchett, calls on the government to remove Mr. Ray from office.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his “deep disagreement” with the law.
To him, the Quebec minister in charge of secularism, Simone Julien Barrett, replied, “Make care of his own business.”
Meanwhile, several Canadian cities have announced that they will financially support the legal challenge to the law, which is still ongoing.
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