2019
September
24
Tuesday
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

This evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched an official impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s actions, saying they undermine national security. Only two U.S. presidents have been impeached. We’re working on a story that looks at the role of moderate Democrats in tipping the balance for tomorrow’s Daily.

In today’s issue, our five hand-picked stories include a look at Britain’s democratic push-pull, the resiliency of the Hong Kong protests, Canadian voters’ views on racism, California versus Trump, and a delightful comic about going to Mars

Truth matters. Rule of law matters.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson just got a lesson in democratic checks and balances from the Britain’s Supreme Court.

The 11 justices unanimously ruled Tuesday that Mr. Johnson’s suspension (prorogue) of Parliament was illegal. It’s “impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us, that there was any reason – let alone a good reason – to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks,” explained Lady Brenda Hale, president of the Supreme Court.

In a democracy, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches act as checks on the abuse of power. We can see examples of this worldwide.

In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma faced charges of corruption, and a court ruling that he’d violated the constitution by not upholding the rule of law in those charges. He faced multiple no-confidence votes in parliament before stepping down in 2018.

In Poland, the populist conservative ruling party forced one-third of the Supreme Court justices in to early retirement in order to load the court with party loyalists, a move the European Court of Justice declared illegal in June.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could face charges of fraud, bribery and breach of public trust, if he fails to win re-election.

In the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, a consistent message of democracy is that no one is above the law.

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1. In UK Supreme Court ruling, a blow to faith in British institutions?

Our first story is about the democratic tensions in the United Kingdom and what’s next for Brexit after the judicial branch clips the wings of the executive.

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When Boris Johnson campaigned for Brexit three years ago, one of his arguments was that it was unfair that British laws were being overturned by European courts. British judges need to reassert their role as arbiters, he argued. Today, the country’s highest court did just that – but may have further inflamed the partisanship that has fueled the fight over Brexit.

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Mr. Johnson, now prime minister, failed to justify his decision last month to suspend Parliament for five weeks. Pro-Brexit campaigners lambasted the court as another establishment tool designed to thwart the 17.4 million people who voted to leave in 2016. In the opposite camp, the ruling reveals a cavalier and contemptuous government that is breaking democratic norms.

“Everybody is now seen as partisan in the Brexit process, that’s one of the dangerous and invidious effects of Brexit,” says Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham in England. “It has undermined people’s faith in the institutions that are meant to guarantee law and order and fair play and due process.”

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In UK Supreme Court ruling, a blow to faith in British institutions?

When the United Kingdom’s highest court ended the suspension of Parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tuesday, its landmark ruling barely mentioned Brexit. Indeed, in a strictly judicial sense, the Supreme Court decision was not about Brexit at all.

But the politics of the fitful effort to extract the U.K. from the European Union has heavily shaped how a divided and dug-in country received the court’s verdict.

Pro-Brexit campaigners lambasted the court as another establishment tool designed to thwart the 17.4 million people who voted to leave in 2016. Angry callers to radio stations invoked the “will of the people” against the court’s legitimacy and questioned the political neutrality of its 11 judges, who unanimously upheld a Scottish court decision that Mr. Johnson had failed to justify his decision last month to suspend Parliament for five weeks.

In the opposite camp, calls for Mr. Johnson to resign are growing and are set to heat up on Wednesday when Parliament returns to the fray. To critics of Brexit, the ruling reveals a cavalier and contemptuous government that is breaking democratic norms, all in the name of delivering on a referendum that was said to be about restoring British sovereignty.

Unlike its counterpart in the United States, the Supreme Court is a new and relatively untested institution, meant to be a check on the bedrock of British democracy: parliamentary sovereignty. That its procedural ruling is facing angry pushback from Brexit supporters, and only grudging consent from Mr. Johnson’s government, could be a sign of a rocky road ahead for it and other democratic institutions.

“Everybody is now seen as partisan in the Brexit process, that’s one of the dangerous and invidious effects of Brexit. It has undermined people’s faith in the institutions that are meant to guarantee law and order and fair play and due process,” says Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham in England.

Tuesday’s ruling turned on the workings of one of those institutions. One of the fundamentals of Britain’s uncodified constitution is parliamentary sovereignty; another is the accountability of government to Parliament and in turn to the electorate. By suspending Parliament at a critical juncture in the Brexit process, it was Mr. Johnson who blocked the “will of the people,” says Robert Hazell, a professor of government and the constitution at King’s College London.

“The Supreme Court decision has shown that the system is still working. The court reminded us of the fundamentals of our parliamentary system of government,” he says.

Mr. Johnson insisted that his decision to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament was routine and not a ploy to enable his Brexit policy. He took office in July vowing to take the U.K. out of the EU, with or without a negotiated settlement on trade, citizens’ rights, and intra-Ireland borders.

But prorogation was widely seen as a power play against members of Parliament who had spent their summer recess plotting to thwart a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, when the U.K. is due to leave the EU. The government’s own contingency planning for a no-deal scenario warns of social and political unrest amid shortages of food and medicine and a hard brake on trade with the EU.

Campaigners sought judicial review of prorogation in Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland, but only the Scottish court ruled in favor of the petitioners. The government then appealed the Scottish ruling to the Supreme Court in London.

The court ruled Tuesday that while prorogation was an executive power that the prime minister (acting in the name of the monarch) could exercise, it must not infringe on parliamentary democracy. That builds on previous rulings by the 10-year-old Supreme Court and sets a precedent for future judicial reviews of government actions.

Toby Melville/Reuters
People protest outside the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom against Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue Parliament, in London on Sept. 17.

The idea that an elected government could be blocked by unelected judges is still an awkward fit for some Britons, says Mr. Hazell, a former civil servant. “In our political culture, including the British media, they are used to the idea of a strong government,” he says.

By contrast, Mr. Johnson has no majority in Parliament and lost a series of votes earlier this month that bound his hands on Brexit. If he fails to reach a negotiated deal with the EU by mid-October, he is required, by law, to ask for an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline.

Boxed in by Parliament and the courts, Mr. Johnson is expected to seek an election to break the Brexit impasse and try to capitalize on divisions in the opposition parties. MPs previously rejected a motion to hold an October election, arguing that the Brexit deadline must come first.

Speaking in Brighton at his party conference, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Tuesday that he would not table a no-confidence vote against Mr. Johnson – a prelude to an election – until a no-deal Brexit was off the table. He added, “Boris Johnson has been found to have misled the country. This unelected prime minister should now resign.”

Mr. Johnson has been attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York where he met Tuesday with President Donald Trump. Before flying back to London he told reporters, “I strongly disagree with this judgment and we in the U.K. will not be deterred from getting on and delivering on the will of the people to come out of the EU on October the 31st, because that is what we were mandated to do.”

Ironically, the Leave campaign that Mr. Johnson led invoked the slogan “take back control” to refer to the exercise of power by British institutions, not European ones – including the courts. Mr. Johnson and others complained about the unfairness of British laws being overturned by the European Court of Justice and called for British judges to reassert their role as arbiters.

Assuming he stays, Mr. Johnson’s election campaign is likely to feature the populist narrative echoing today in pro-Brexit circles, says Mr. Fielding, namely that he “is the personification of the people’s will ... and Parliament and judges and elites have tried to stop me.”

“The British were famous for an ability to compromise, for Parliamentary democracy and debate and fair play,” he says. With Brexit’s polarizing politics “that’s all out of the window.”

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2. ‘Freedom is in our mind’: Why Hong Kong protests are still escalating

Our reporter examines the evolution of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests – and why even as the violence escalates, there are signs that broad public support remains.

David
Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
A woman seeking to protect the protesters in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, holds a sign in Chinese that says, “Police, keep your cool. Please don’t shoot,” on Sept. 21, 2019.

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After 16 weeks of unrest, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is far from abating. Protests that began this weekend as festive marches, and gatherings to fold paper cranes, transformed into chases, tear gas, and barricades. Young protesters are showing signs of radicalization, combining nimbleness, creativity, and flair with selective acts of destruction and violence.

Motivating those actions, a recent survey found, are concerns about “a rotting system” and encroachment on people’s rights – a distrust that has left many more fearful of what would happen if they stopped protesting than of repression or jail. More than 90% of protesters approve of radical tactics in the face of government unresponsiveness, according to the poll.

But even as protests escalate, there are indications that broader support for their cause continues. “It’s OK to express your opinions,” one middle-aged security guard from mainland China says sympathetically, calmly waiting for a clash between protesters and police to end. “Democracy is a must.”

China will try to keep tightening its grip, says one retired businessman, squeezing his open hand for emphasis. But “Hong Kong can’t go back,” he says, because “freedom is in our mind.”

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‘Freedom is in our mind’: Why Hong Kong protests are still escalating

Wearing a black T-shirt, black pants, and a surgical mask to hide her face, Valerie folds a delicate pink origami crane, crafting the bird that represents happiness together with thousands of other pro-democracy protesters packing a Hong Kong mall on Sunday.

The group quickly fashions more than 1,000 of the paper cranes, a tradition to make a wish come true. With the little figures, they build one huge, multicolored bird that they hoist skyward to the cheers of the gathered crowd.

But the day that begins with a peaceful shopping boycott and a wind ensemble playing the protesters’ anthem, “Glory to Hong Kong,” ends with Valerie and her fellow demonstrators building fiery barricades and clashing with riot police.

“At first I was only for peaceful protest,” says Valerie, a nursing student at the Open University of Hong Kong, asking to withhold her full name. But her views shifted after months of peaceful activism and mass rallies met with government intransigence.

“The government is oppressing our freedom,” Valerie says. “It’s very important for us to increase the level of action to show the government we won’t stop until we get what we want.”

Far from abating, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is showing signs of radicalization as it combines its nimbleness, creativity, and flair for symbolism with selective acts of property destruction and violence. As the government steps up arrests and other measures to thwart the movement, protesters are escalating their response, driven by a deepening mistrust of government authorities and their hopes for universal suffrage and democracy. For many, the fear of repression or jail is now outweighed by trepidation over what would happen if they stopped protesting.

The percentage of Hong Kong protesters approving of radical tactics in the face of government unresponsiveness rose from 70% in June to more than 90% in August, according to a recently published academic survey of more than 8,000 people conducted at more than dozen protests.

Underlying protester complaints, the survey found, is concern over “a rotting system,” marked by declining government accountability, a lack of democratic representation, and “the steady encroachment on people’s political rights and civil liberties,” writes survey researcher Samson Yuen, assistant professor of political science at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

The survey found that the protesters, mainly highly educated and in their 20s and 30s, voice a high degree of solidarity and determination, as well as desperation. Eighty percent say the protests should go on, and half support escalation, Professor Yuen says.

Meanwhile, pro-Beijing events or rallies to support embattled police forces have drawn thousands. But as clashes grow more violent, it appears that many Hong Kongers continue to support the movement – despite Beijing’s hope of ‘dividing and conquering’ more extreme demonstrators.

“I will not stop going on the street unless we have true democracy,” says Elizabeth, a communications student at Hong Kong Baptist University, as a phalanx of police arrives to confront the peaceful group at the mall. “Facing a totalitarian regime, violence is justified.” 

“Every revolution comes with a price of lives and injuries,” she says. “I am willing to pay the price.”

Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters march with US flags in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, on Sept. 21, 2019, the sixteenth week of unrest.

Calm to chaos

From the outlying towns of Sha Tin, Tuen Mun, and Yuen Long to densely populated Mong Kok in the heart of Kowloon, scattered protests again broke out across Hong Kong last weekend – the 16th week of unrest – as citizens struck back at what they increasingly view as repression. 

On Saturday, thousands of protesters – from office workers and students to elderly citizens and mothers pushing strollers – set off in a festive mood for a government-approved march in the northwestern neighborhood of Tuen Mun.

“Cheer up Hong Kong!” the protesters chanted as they spilled out of a playground, holding a sea of bobbing umbrellas for shade from the afternoon sun.

The march’s official purpose was to “reclaim Tuen Mun” park, which residents say has been overtaken by noisy mainland Chinese “singing aunties” who croon and dance for money.

Yet as protesters arrived at the Tuen Mun government offices, police stormed out from behind the building, firing tear gas to disperse the crowd. And although the march was approved, Mass Transit Railway (MTR) authorities shut Tuen Mun station before it started.     

“MTR is working with the police,” says Dorothy, an office worker who declined to give her real name. “They are just closing down so people can’t get out and police can catch them,” she says, adding that she uses cash instead of her transit card to travel to protests to avoid being tracked. In contrast, when mass protests first erupted in June, MTR added extra trains to facilitate them, she says. 

As the police closed in from two sides, protesters fluidly fell back and began setting up defenses, building barricades across nearby streets and gathering bricks. “Stand with Hong Kong! Fight for freedom!” they chanted. An elderly woman stood in front of the police line holding up a sign in Chinese that said: “Police, keep your cool. Please don’t shoot.” 

As police stormed the crowd, firing more tear gas and hitting protesters with batons, one activist hurled a petrol bomb to aid their escape then melted away.

Growing anger and distrust of Hong Kong’s government and police are major sources of frustration fueling the movement, protesters say. One of the protesters’ key five demands is for an independent inquiry into alleged abuses by Hong Kong’s police, accused by Amnesty International last week of arbitrary arrests and retaliatory violence. (Meanwhile, Lam Chi-wai, chairman of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, has criticized the public for not condemning protesters’ violence, asking them “to break your silence, to let us know people of justice are not lonely,” according to the Hong Kong Free Press.)

Public confidence in Hong Kong’s chief executive – currently Carrie Lam – is the lowest ever since 1997, when the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule, a recent survey shows. Most Hong Kong residents are unsatisfied with the government’s response to the protests, triggered in the spring by a proposed bill that would have allowed individuals to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party. The bill was seen as part of an overall tightening of China’s grip on the territory, and Mrs. Lam agreed this month to withdraw it.

Protesters are also lashing out at the MTR for allegedly obstructing their movement. On Sunday, for example, they used hammers to smash several ticket booths at Sha Tin station. Surveillance cameras are another target, often destroyed by activists who fear their actions are being tracked.

Many of Hong Kong’s demonstrators see China’s Communist Party as the ultimate force stifling their demands for democracy. An outspoken and growing minority seeks Hong Kong’s independence, and has taken to ripping down Chinese flags, as in Sha Tin on Sunday. After trampling and spray-painting the flag, they threw it in a dumpster and then in the nearby Shing Mun River – an act China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency denounced as a blatant challenge to Beijing’s authority.

Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Protesters lift a chain of paper cranes at the New Town Plaza mall in Shatin, Hong Kong on Sept. 22, 2019.

Silent, but supportive?

As protesters clashed with riot police at the Sha Tin mall on Sunday, two middle-aged mall security guards waited calmly down a quiet hallway for the unrest to end, seemingly unconcerned.

One of the guards, a woman who immigrated to Hong Kong from mainland China 10 years ago, spoke sympathetically of the young activists. “It’s OK to express your opinions,” she says. “Democracy,” she added pointedly, “is a must.” 

Her Hong Kong colleague nodded in agreement. “Democracy, freedom, human rights are essential.”

Several bystanders on the periphery were rooting the protesters on, a hint of the movement’s broad backing that could help sustain it.

A retired businessman with close-cropped hair reflected on Hong Kong’s future as he waited for a long-delayed bus in Tuen Mun on Saturday night, after protests led to roadblocks.

“You can’t trust the Hong Kong government,” he says. “It is corrupt from top to bottom. Just like a dog, it obeys its master,” he says, referring to China. Although his father was a Hong Kong police officer, he says the force has changed. “The police now are just like the mafia.”

China will try to keep tightening its grip on Hong Kong, he says, squeezing his open hand into a fist for emphasis. But “Hong Kong can’t go back,” because “freedom is in our mind.”

As black-clad riot police rushed through a Sha Tin park chasing elusive protesters Sunday night, Mike Fung, an engineer, looked on together with his 5-year-old son. Although he says he values security and stability for his family, he fears that without change, his son will grow up to “face the same problem” as today’s teenage protesters. “The anger or upset in people will keep accumulating,” he says.

Near a bridge over Sha Tin’s Shing Mun River, a group of social workers sits together in the lamplight, listening to “Glory to Hong Kong” play softly on a speaker.

Tasked with providing counseling amid Hong Kong’s crisis, and aiding people at risk for suicide, their work is as vital as it is risky, says one of the social workers, Henry Tang.

“We fight for social justice. We are worried whether we can do this for our future society,” he says.

But Hong Kong has already passed the point of no return, he says. “If we give up now the Communist Party will target us. So, we can’t give up.”

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3. Trump and California feud, with neither side seeking peace

The latest jousting between a mostly liberal state and a mostly conservative president offers different perspectives on solving problems such as homelessness and air pollution.

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For President Donald Trump, California is a convenient foil in a race that will be won or lost in the Midwest next year. Although he has no hope of winning in a state where he is wildly unpopular, he can portray California as liberalism run amok – on immigration, homelessness, and income disparity.

It is hardly in the interest of California’s leaders to stand down. They’ve already filed 60 lawsuits against the administration. And Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom can rely on a fellow Californian, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to defend the breach in Washington.

The latest flashpoint came last week, when Mr. Trump revoked the state’s ability to set its own tough auto emissions standards. California, along with 22 other states and several major cities, are suing.

Professor John Pitney at Claremont McKenna College in California does not think the state will pay a high price for its war with the president. “That’s the beauty of the separation of powers,” he says. “California can make its plea to the House. It can make its appeal to the courts. It’s not an ideal situation, but the ideal is the exception, rather than the rule.”

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Trump and California feud, with neither side seeking peace

It has become a battle royal: the leader of the world’s largest economy versus the leaders of the fifth largest, with little incentive for a cease-fire.

We are talking, of course, about President Donald Trump and California. Last week, the president combined a visit for campaign cash with a mighty strike at the blue state – revoking the state’s decadeslong ability to set its own tough auto emissions standards. He also castigated its cities for “allowing” the homeless crisis, warning San Francisco that it’s violating environmental rules over the issue.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other leaders are fighting back. On Friday, California, along with 22 other states and several major cities, filed a lawsuit against the administration’s emissions action – its 60th suit against the administration. On Monday, the governor spoke at the United Nations climate action summit, touting California’s leadership in the switch to clean energy, with such jobs outnumbering those in the fossil fuel industry 5 to 1, and California outpacing U.S. economic growth.

“I don’t know what the hell happened to this country that we have the president that we do today on this issue,” he said, adding that President Trump is turning the conservative argument of states’ rights on its head. A serious problem with smog led to a waiver for the state to set its own tailpipe standards under the Clean Air Act, signed by a Republican president (Richard Nixon) while a Republican governor (Ronald Reagan) was in office.

The widespread feeling here is that the president feels snubbed by four automakers that agreed to California’s standards. He won one last week, though, when a federal judge blocked a new California law requiring disclosure of tax returns to qualify for the presidential primary ballot.

“I’ve never seen the animus so strong,” says longtime political observer Barbara O’Connor, speaking of the combat between Sacramento and Washington. And it’s not limited to those two capitals, she says. “It has huge ripple effects” across the country, with the potential to turn red states like Arizona against the president.

“The ripple is coming. It’s based on clean air and water and the Constitution, and whether or not there are really three [branches] of government in Washington,” she says. San Francisco and Los Angeles are hardly alone in having to deal with homelessness, though their challenge is severe, and voters are also impatient with the slow pace of various lawsuits against the administration, according to Professor O’Connor.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler, (r.), and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao speak to reporters about President Donald Trump's decision to revoke California's authority to set auto mileage standards stricter than those issued by federal regulators, at EPA headquarters in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

“I see it as ultimately playing out as political change,” she says.

Not all observers see such far-reaching reverberations.

“I don’t think there’s much effect in the great beyond,” says Bill Whalen, former speechwriter to Pete Wilson, California’s Republican governor during the 1990s. 

President Trump’s criticism of California liberals goes back to his campaign, illustrated by his focus on the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle by a convicted felon who was in the country illegally, says Mr. Whalen. “It really hasn’t changed.”

Terry Madonna, a pollster in the swing state of Pennsylvania, doesn’t think the ongoing fight sways voters “one way or the other.” Their opinions of the president are hardened, and most of his supporters likely share his views of liberal California.

But here’s where observers align: The last time a governor of California and a president of the other party were at serious loggerheads, the conflict was not nearly as personal or partisan. When former Governor Wilson and then-President Bill Clinton locked horns over immigration, the Wilson team published Op-Eds and ran ads in The New York Times, recalls Mr. Whalen, who is now a fellow at the Hoover Institution. “That was nothing compared to the vitriol here.”

And yet there is no incentive for either side to disarm, he explains.

For President Trump, California is a convenient foil in a race that will be won or lost in the Midwest. He has no hope of winning in a state where he is wildly unpopular, but he can point to California as liberalism run amok – on immigration, homelessness, and income disparity. He has made not only the governor, but the entire Democratic establishment his punching bag, from mayors to members of Congress.

Neither is it in the interest of the governor to stand down.

Governor Newsom is in a strong position to fight the Trump administration because California is running historic budget surpluses. He can rely on a fellow Californian, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to defend the breach in Washington. Ms. Pelosi was expected to announce a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday against President Trump. Governor Newsom, meanwhile, has political ambition and a role to promote as a leader of the “resistance” to the president – and perhaps as a potential presidential candidate down the road.

But the governor says that values and the future are at stake when it comes to climate change. “I know ... we’re supposed to stay above politics, but you can’t on this issue,” he told the summit audience on Monday. Given the state’s recent experience with fires, floods, and drought, “this is not an intellectual exercise for us.”

It can be argued that the battle over auto emissions could have a ripple effect – given that 13 other states, plus Washington, D.C., follow California’s standards and account for about a third of the U.S. auto market. Yet the four automakers say they are sticking with California. The staying power of the conflict may also hinge on who wins the 2020 presidential election.

Much more could be accomplished if the president and California worked together, says John Pitney, professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College in California. But he does not think the state will pay a high price in the end.

“We’ll muddle through,” he says. “That’s the beauty of the separation of powers. California can make its plea to the House. It can make its appeal to the courts. It’s not an ideal situation, but the ideal is the exception, rather than the rule.”

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4. After brownface scandal, how do minority Canadians view Trudeau?

What matters most to voters: personal mistakes or public policies? Our reporter looked for answers in the wake of the Canadian prime minister’s brownface scandal.

David
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/AP
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's campaign is trying to contain a growing furor after a yearbook photo surfaced of him in brownface at a 2001 "Arabian Nights" costume party and two other similar incidents came to light, just a month away from federal elections.

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Rahma Hilowle, whose parents immigrated from Somalia, says she was deeply disappointed when images surfaced of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in black- and brownface. “I honestly thought he was better than that,” she says, speaking on Saturday with her sister.

Now the country’s October elections have become more complicated for her. She does believe his apology was sincere, and that people change. She also believes the Conservatives would place far less attention on tackling racism in Canadian society.

Above all, she would like the election to return the focus on the issues that matter most to them: student debt, affordable housing, and gun violence.

Mr. Trudeau has tried to change the subject, over the weekend unveiling major policy proposals on everything from cellphones to gun control. And for many voters, that is what they expect. A new poll by Ekos Politics showed that racial minorities seem to be the least swayed by the incidents, with the Liberals leading among that demographic.

“I understand that this is an issue, but I find sometimes people tend to focus on scandals, as opposed to actual policies that will affect us moving forward,” her sister Amy Hilowle says.

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After brownface scandal, how do minority Canadians view Trudeau?

As a black woman and immigrant, Bridget Phillip says she understands the subtleties of hidden racism in Canadian society, even if she herself has never been the direct victim of it.

But when she saw the now infamous images of her Prime Minister Justin Trudeau donning black- and brownface in his past, she says she wasn’t offended – and didn’t think it had anything to do with systematic racism in Canada.

“We’re happy that they’re talking about it. But sometimes you have to talk about it for the right reasons,” says Ms. Phillip, in a shopping mall on Sunday in one of Toronto’s most multicultural neighborhoods. “There are a lot more important things to talk about than to dwell on what just happened.”

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s acknowledgement last week that his own “blind spot” was behind the decision to paint his face dark as Aladdin at a school fundraiser while he was a teacher, amid other incidents, has forced Canada to challenge its own biases. In a country celebrated for its multiculturalism, many have in the past week called for a teaching moment.

But in Toronto’s Jane and Finch area, which is majority minority, voters expressed frustration at a “gotcha”-style politics that is overshadowing the policies they care most about – access to education, affordable housing, and a reduction of gun violence, for example – and want Canada to move on.

“We just don’t talk about it”

It’s not that they are OK with the status quo. Despite its embrace of Syrian refugees or welcoming rhetoric toward immigrants, those interviewed say, Canada fails racial minorities at many turns, whether it be higher victimization rates of gun shootings or greater barriers to getting jobs.

Still, just a month away from federal elections, they say the focus has been misplaced on Mr. Trudeau’s character. While images of their leader in brownface, one as late as 2001 when he was 29, would derail the electoral prospects of many, they say such an outcome could bring in a government that is even more unlikely to face the tough questions about race and inequality ahead.

It’s unclear how this will affect Mr. Trudeau at the ballot box. A new poll by Ekos Politics showed that racial minorities seem to be the least swayed by the incidents, with the Liberals leading among that demographic. Data from the firm Abacus released Monday showed that Mr. Trudeau’s personal rating has taken a hit, but voter intention hasn’t widely swung. It’s been a tight race between the Liberals and Conservatives and continues to be. Their data showed that 34% of respondents said the incident bothered them but that Mr. Trudeau’s apology sufficed. Another 24% said their views of Mr. Trudeau have changed for the worse. Some 42% of respondents say the incident didn’t bother them.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/AP
New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke of the pain that Prime Minister Trudeau's “brownface” scandal raised for many Canadians, including himself, and reached out to those affected, in Mississauga, Ontario, on Sept. 18.

For some analysts that is unfortunate, in a country that tends to juxtapose itself with the U.S. and give itself a pass when it comes to legacies of racism, whether that is over-romanticizing its embrace of freed U.S. slaves or simply not talking about how old inequalities manifest in income or mobility.

“A lot of people think Canada has less racism than other countries. Actually, the reality is we have just as much racism; we just don’t talk about it,” says Lori Wilkinson, a University of Manitoba professor who focuses on race relations. “I have always thought Americans are more willing to talk about it than Canadians. A lot of Canadians are busy patting themselves on the back while the problem festers.”

The wrong focus?

The incident has caused pause for minority voters. Rahma Hilowle, whose parents immigrated from Somalia, says she was deeply disappointed. “I honestly thought he was better than that,” she says. And now the October vote has become more complicated for her. She supports the New Democratic Party, but since they are lagging so far behind in polls, she was planning to vote strategically for the Liberals to keep the Conservatives out of power.

She does believe his apology was sincere, and that people change. She also believes the Conservatives would place far less attention on tackling racism in Canadian society. “It’s complicated,” she says.

Above all, she and her younger sister Amy, at the mall on a Sunday morning after the gym, say they would like the election to return the focus on the issues that matter most to them: student debt, affordable housing, and gun violence. “I understand that this is an issue, but I find sometimes people tend to focus on scandals, as opposed to actual policies that will affect us moving forward,” Amy Hilowle says.

Mr. Trudeau has tried to change the subject, over the weekend unveiling major policy proposals on everything from cellphones to gun control. And for many voters, that is what they expect.

Triumph Muta, who lives and studies in the Jane and Finch neighborhood, says that as prime minister, Mr. Trudeau has to be a role model. “But focus on the programs,” he says. “The personal is secondary.”

Mr. Muta, who is studying business economics at university, says that he does believe racism is behind some lack of opportunities for black people in a white-dominated society. But Mr. Trudeau is not, in his eyes, one of the problems.

“Personally as a black man, I wasn’t offended by that,” he says. “I know a lot of people who don’t do blackface who are more racist. As long as he apologizes, we should forgive him, and move on.”

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Comic Debrief

5. Mars or bust: A comic

Humanity’s quest to challenge limits, to explore the unknown, now extends to Mars. We take a visually engaging look at some of the obstacles and solutions to a red planet mission. 

David

It has been more than five decades since humans first set foot on another world, and as memories of the Apollo 11 mission recede, the stars beckon mankind to make its next giant leap.

This time, humanity has set its sights on the fourth planet from the sun, Mars. A settlement on the red planet has long been a staple of science fiction. But today, scientists and engineers are working to make these dreams a reality.

Drawn by Jacob Turcotte and written by Eoin O’Carroll, this comic looks at some of the challenges and potential solutions for a crewed Mars mission, from getting the timing of the launch right, to slowing it down when it arrives, to creating the buildings, farms, and other infrastructure that humans need to thrive on the red planet.

Jacob Turcotte and Eoin O'Carroll
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The Monitor's View

Neighborly nudges between nations

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Despite an era of global threats and responses, sometimes the best answer to issues comes from nations in proximity to one another. The latest example is a Sept. 23 decision by the Organization of American States to shut down the criminal activities of the Maduro regime in Venezuela. By a 16-1 vote, the regional body invoked a pact commonly known as the Rio Treaty to pursue, prosecute, and extradite officials under Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro who are deemed guilty of major crimes, such as drug trafficking. By curbing the flow of crime-related money to the regime, the OAS hopes to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy.

The Rio Treaty, known as TIAR for its initials in Spanish, is the “only inter-American instrument that gives us the legal instrument to take actions ... to protect democracy, peace, and stability in the region,” said Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Trujillo.

While the U.S. has targeted sanctions against the Maduro regime, Latin America’s effort to hold the dictatorship accountable carries moral weight, especially within the Venezuelan military that currently props up the regime. Close neighbors can often be more persuasive than distant powers. That’s what neighbors are for.

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Neighborly nudges between nations

This week, Iraq invited its Middle East neighbors to meet in Baghdad and “chart a map for a regional alliance.” In early September, 10 countries in Southeast Asia held the first joint naval exercises with the United States, a direct rebuke by the regional grouping to Beijing’s forceful encroachment in the South China Sea. And in August, the 54-nation African Union witnessed the success of its mediating efforts in Sudan with a peace deal aimed at returning that country to civilian rule.

These are a few examples of neighbors in different regions acting like neighbors – watching out for trouble in the ’hood and finding solutions. Despite an era of global threats and responses, sometimes the best answer to issues comes from nations in proximity to one another and often with shared history.

The latest example is a Sept. 23 decision by the Organization of American States to work together to shut down the criminal activities of the Maduro regime in Venezuela. By a 16-1 vote, the regional body invoked a 1947 pact commonly known as the Rio Treaty to pursue, prosecute, and extradite officials under Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro who are deemed guilty of major crimes, such as human rights abuses and drug trafficking.

By curbing the flow of crime-related money to the regime, the OAS hopes to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy. According to the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, 87% of Venezuelans say that “most or all” of the Maduro regime is corrupt, a much higher percentage than two years ago and the highest in Latin America.

The Rio Treaty, known as TIAR for its initials in Spanish, is the “only inter-American instrument that gives us the legal instrument to take actions ... to protect democracy, peace, and stability in the region,” said Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Trujillo.

While the U.S. has targeted sanctions against the Maduro regime, Latin America’s effort to hold the dictatorship accountable carries moral weight, especially within the Venezuelan military that currently props up the regime. Close neighbors can often be more persuasive than distant powers. That’s what neighbors are for.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Certainty for hungering hearts

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Most of us long for greater peace and freedom, which can seem tenuous. But there is a divine Principle that we can turn to for healing and solutions that give us confidence in God’s love and care for all. 

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Certainty for hungering hearts

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Each day’s news brings us examples of humanity’s constant yearning for freedom and justice. Just this month, Tunisia experienced the second free presidential vote in its history. In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters – many of them students – show a fearless spirit and a determined faith in the right.

Most everyone, no matter their station in life, longs for greater peace and freedom. I’ve found that no matter where we are, or what circumstance we’re in, these words of Christ Jesus can inspire hope and comfort: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

There is a sense of rock-solid certainty in that beatitude, that even right where trouble seems to be, there is blessedness. This speaks to the divine power behind a love of what’s good and right. It also assures us that God, divine Love itself, hears and responds to us. One inspired writer in the Old Testament describes God’s care this way: “He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalms 107:9).

The power of Love, God, to meet humanity’s hunger for spiritual, moral, and physical freedom was understood and articulated by Mary Baker Eddy, the religious reformer and Christian healer who discovered the divine Science of Christ. She once wrote, partially quoting a scriptural passage: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 13).

How can we tap into the surety and confidence in God, good, that Jesus so eloquently expressed? By beginning to understand more fully the actual nature of God, the Supreme Being. The Bible describes God as Love, and the divine Science of being also defines this Love as infinite Principle, fixed and invariable, the law by which all creation – the spiritual expression of God’s own love – is perfectly and wisely governed.

In other words, Love isn’t on again, off again. Another of Mrs. Eddy’s books explains this in poetic language: “God is not the shifting vane on the spire, but the corner-stone of living rock, firmer than everlasting hills” (“Unity of Good,” p. 14).

Love and Principle. Blessedness and an inevitable law of fulfillment. Our hungering hearts can turn to God, our heavenly Father-Mother, with confidence. God’s law of Love is scientific – universally practical. It doesn’t play favorites. Glimpsing God’s invariable law of good that governs all reality brings freedom to light and meets our needs. Christ Jesus illustrated this law not only in his teachings but in his many healing works.

A recent example of divine law bringing such healing occurred when I came down with a severe sore throat. I was worried about this worsening condition as I lay in bed one night. But with all my heart, I turned to God in prayer, hungering and thirsting to feel divine Love’s presence. Over the years, through many healings I’ve had in Christian Science, I have come to feel increasingly assured that God’s, Love’s, undeviating nature as the harmonious Principle of all is always here to meet our need for freedom, including freedom from ill health.

Giving strength to my certainty at that moment was the idea that God had created me (and everyone) in His own image and likeness – spiritual, good, whole, and complete. This canceled out the fear that I could be separated from God.

As I prayed along these lines, a sweet sense of God’s love came over me, leaving me in peace, and I fell asleep. The next morning, I awoke feeling happy and well, the soreness virtually gone. Plus, my thought was so uplifted! I felt “filled,” like that beatitude describes. By mid-morning all was completely back to normal, and I went on to have a great day.

This is a very modest instance, of course. But it gives me hope and confidence that the divine Principle is always active, its law universally applicable to larger as well as smaller issues of all kinds.

We can all play a role in supporting our brothers and sisters, whether around the block or across the world. We can embrace them in the prayer of faith that affirms the blessedness of divine Love and the fulfillment of divine Principle. In this way we allow the nearness and power of God’s love, and the unerring law of righteousness that is ever at hand, to shine through.

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Viewfinder

Please don’t make any sudden moves

Emilio Morenatti/AP
Participants walk while maintaining a human tower during a Saint Mercè celebration in San Jaume square in Barcelona, Spain, Sept. 24, 2019. The tradition of building human towers or “castells” dates back to the 18th century and takes place during festivals in Catalonia, where “colles” or teams compete to build the tallest and most complicated towers.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( September 25th, 2019 )

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow; we’re working on a story about the persistence of corruption in labor unions and its impact on the current UAW strike.

Monitor Daily Podcast

September 24, 2019
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