By Seeba Chaachouh
Major Issues in Canadian Politics:
Q: What is your opinion on Motion 103? Do you think it is in Canada’s interest to have this motion?
A: There is no doubt that with the rise of the extreme right wing, hatred is on the rise. This is why the NDP is committed to support any efforts that are meant to fight against Islamophobia and all forms of discrimination. This is why the NDP will be voting in favour of M-103.
Q: Do you think the outcomes of this motion will be positive? Will it help fight Islamophobia in Canada?
A: I do believe it will open the door to further the study of Islamophobia in our society and to determine what recourse is needed to combat this form of discrimination. It will also help us establish a more nuanced strategy to combat all forms of discrimination. A committee will be delegated to undertake that study once M-103 is passed.
Q: Given that the NDP, along with other parties, voted for the motion proposed by David Anderson to counter motion 103, what is your opinion on the issue? Was it a good choice for the NDP to vote for it?
A: The NDP stands against all forms of discrimination, with no exception, and we will vote for any piece of legislation or motion that seeks to condemn discrimination in all its forms. It should be the duty for all parliamentarians to send a clear message that discrimination is unacceptable in Canada. Both Motion 103 and the CPC motion are valid, and both motions aim to achieve the same outcome. Furthermore, the work to be undertaken by the committee, if these motions pass, is exactly the same. If both motions pass, committee will have to determine how to proceed to conduct the study.
There is no question that much work needs to be done. We need to look long and hard at our own current policies and actions. We need to devise a plan with real action and speak clearly and forcefully against all forms of racism, discrimination, and bigotry – and this includes Islamophobia.
Both Motion 103 and the CPC motion call on the Trudeau government to recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear, and condemn all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.
Again, New Democrats will proudly stand in favour of any motion that aims to address and combat hate and discrimination and we will not wallow in political games on this critical issue.
Q: What is your opinion on wearing the headscarf in Canada? Do you think it is an issue for public sector employees to wear a headscarf?
A: Women with or without a headscarf are equal under the Canadian constitution. All Canadians of all genders are equal under the Canadian constitution. Freedom of religion is one of the core values on which this country was built. I will keep fighting to ensure that this right is protected. Women should feel safe and confident in their own skin and no one should preclude them from expressing their identity freely.
I recognize that there are still inequities that need to be addressed. For example, it is unacceptable that women are still paid 28% less than men in this country. It is unacceptable that women are still statistically more prone to be victims of domestic violence. It is unacceptable that we don’t have enough women in Parliament. There is a lot of work to do to make our society fairer and more equal. This is something I have been fighting for throughout my political career and will keep fighting for as leader of the NDP.
Q: Do you think the hijab interferes with women’s rights?
A: It is not my place to determine if a hijab interferes with women’s right. I believe it is the prerogative of the woman wearing the hijab to determine if her rights are being suppressed or not. In fact, it is up to any woman to determine if her rights are suppressed or not. Throughout my career as a parliamentarian, I sought to protect values of inclusivity and openness in our Parliament and in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster. Women of all backgrounds and of all faiths should feel free to practice their religion freely without having their rights and dignity threatened. As leader of the NDP, I will continue my work to defend social justice for all Canadians, with no exception.
Q: Is Canada affected by the Trump administration and Trump’s anti-Muslim policies? (Considering the recent mosque attack in Quebec)
A: It is clear that President Trump’s policies have incited sentiments of hate in Canada, or at minimum made certain people feel comfortable expressing their racist and misogynist mentalities. The terrorist attack at the Quebec Mosque in January was a horrifying result of this escalation in hate. I met with Muslim leaders in Montreal and in Sherbrooke earlier this year to hear their concerns related to Islamophobia and the effects of the bigotry that is circulating online against Muslims. Leading candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party are employing the same bigoted and racist messages we see in Trump’s America. I believe there is an audience for those messages in Canada. It is up to all of us to prove them wrong! This is why we need to stand firm against all forms of discrimination and speak up against it the moment it arises.
Q: What is your opinion on pipelines and climate change? How is your opinion on these issues different from your contenders’?
A: Canada is at a crossroads. We can be part of the transition to a sustainable low-carbon world and become leaders in renewable energy – or we can we can be like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, approving pipelines that increase oil sands production for short term gain, instead of thinking of Canada’s future. Stopping raw bitumen export pipelines and toxic fracking is a start, but we also need a plan for alternative energy. We need to rethink the way we work, the way we move, and the way we live. But this isn’t something we can do from the top-down. If we shut down non-renewable energy sectors, many hard-working Canadians are going to be losing good-paying jobs. They and their families cannot bear the brunt of this transition. That’s why I’m working on a plan that puts workers at the heart of this transition. It can’t be done without them!
Q: What is the level of importance of employment and job increase on your platform? What are the measures you propose in order to increase employment?
A: I believe that the transition toward a green economy is essential to tackle inequalities and create good jobs for youth and indigenous communities. Developing renewable energy is at the heart of my vision to increase employment and create new jobs. Solar and wind energy cost the same as fossil energy today, so what are we waiting for to make the transition?
If we invest $4.65 billion a year over the next 10 years, the federal government can create 58 300 full time jobs every year. We would produce new revenue by reinstating funding for the Clean Energy Fund Program and by ending subsidies to fossil energy. We must install high standards for polluters to pay and to compensate for the damage they cause on our health and our territory. These are billions in returns to invest in our health services and support vulnerable families. In order for this plan to benefit Canadians, we will ensure that the majority of the means used to develop renewable energy sources come from local and regional sources to prevent products being imported and manufactured elsewhere. To include all workers in our transition, we will set up a Just Transition Fund, which will be subsidized collaboratively by the federal government, the provinces and employers. A positive action program will go hand in hand with our transition in order to facilitate the participation of marginalized urban and rural communities in this new economy.
Q: What kind of support do you have to present to the middle class in Canada? Are they your priority?
A: We are the 99%, but the 1% gets all the gains. Families are struggling to pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads – if they even have a roof to keep. Young people can’t find jobs or a decent place to live. Higher education is a path to crippling debt, not a better future. These challenges impact people in communities from Quebec to British Columbia, from the biggest cities to single industry towns, to the smallest villages. But there are also issues unique to every place. Our power to build a better world will come from melding what we share in common with our diversity. Good public healthcare, education, childcare and pensions are central to a fair and equitable society, but there is so much more we can do.
Q: Is the NDP shifting to become more on the left?
A: Again, I admit that the NDP has lost its ways and that is why we lost more than half of our seats in 2015. This is why we must be proud of our progressive roots, and be bold to defend what we stand for no matter what. As leader of the NDP, I intend to steer the party in that direction and never be apologetic for what we believe in.