Alia Hogben Nov 7/2015.
The federal elections are over and it is a glorious day for Canada.
It is a day to hope and to feel optimistic, because all the fears, the hate mongering and intimidation spewed during the campaign is over. Sadly, most of this was directed at Canadian Muslims and by the Conservative leadership. Many Muslims were made to feel alienated, blamed, and viewed as not fully Canadian.
Instead of focusing on major issues, such as the economy and international affairs, the focus on how two women dressed became the battleground for the Conservatives. They wanted to divide Canadians into groups and set one against another, giving licence so that people could openly express hatred and racism.
What is so uplifting is that most Canadians rejected Harper’s message of intolerance and mean-spiritedness and thus he lost. He and his colleagues’ appeal – to our basest instincts of intolerance, mean spiritedness, and exclusion of others – was wonderfully tossed out.
Will Stephen Harper and his colleagues understand the message?
There have been many decent Conservatives in Canada, but Harper’s version is so negative for so many of us. He had followers who blatantly talked of “barbaric practices” and of “snitch lines” pitting neighbours against neighbours.
As John Ibbitson of the Globe and Mail has written, there are a few major things about Harper which Canadians will not miss – his secretive, controlling and autocratic personality, his way of governing, and his law and order agenda. I would add his arrogance and his open dislike of one group of us.
He showed little respect for the Charter or the Supreme Court, paid no heed to multiculturalism nor to women’s issues. He had little time for civil society and its role in holding the government accountable.
Harper’s vituperative language against Muslims aroused strong feelings amongst many Canadians, and galvanized them to publicly speak out.
A letter by several leading women – “The country we want doesn’t use fake feminism” says,
“Far from advancing equality and stopping violence against women, it appears to have unleashed hate. The women, attacked since the government’s ‘Barbaric Cultures tip line’ was introduced, know this only too well. If there is any one culture to be blamed, it is the culture of patriarchy…”
Another letter signed by over 600 academics, “Open Letter regarding Conservative Party campaign tactics,” was also published. They stated:
“There is an ethical line that distinguishes spirited partisan strategy from cynical tactics that betray the values of mutual respect and toleration that lie at the heart of civil democratic discourse…Harper has already come perilously close to this line by suggesting that religion is an appropriate basis to select refugees and by fanning fears of terrorism as a pretext for revoking citizenship from some Canadians,” and by “injecting the inflammatory rhetoric of “barbaric cultural practices” into the current campaign, the Conservative Party has flagrantly crossed the line.”
The Feminist Alliance for International Action [FAFIA] wrote that “Canada’s Leaders must show genuine commitment to equality.” “Whatever our own feelings are with respect to the niqab is not the issue, and is quite irrelevant…We are dismayed by the current debate, and request all political leaders not to target niqab wearing Muslim women in the name of women’s equality…the path to equality lies in embracing and understanding difference, not in stereotyping and marginalizing women of any faith.”
Two prominent Jewish groups also publicly condemned Harper’s negative focus on Muslims. In their letter, over 100 concerned Jewish citizens said,
“Harper has unleashed bigotry and xenophobia against an entire group in Canadian society.” “As Jews, we understand the dangers of scapegoating and victimization. As Canadians, we know that our country’s most precious asset –valuing diversity and acceptance of others –is jeopardized by Mr. Harper’s attack on Muslims.”
Another letter from the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims expressed similar sentiments.
Recently I was on a panel, on the CBC – another essential Canadian institution which Harper dislikes – Michael Enright Sunday Edition, on the subject of Shared Values. The lively discussion resulted in an agreement that our shared, common values are tolerance, the rule of law, civility, hard work, compassion and civil discourse. As Canadians we believe in fairness, in the public good and that we are “our brother’s keeper.”
Sadly, with leaders such as Harper and Mike Harris, there has been an erosion of these values because self-centredness and self- interest over – ride our compassion and care for each other. Their values have inflamed the discrimination and hate which is present in each of us. The public permission not only to voice, but to act on these base feelings led to some Canadian Muslim women being targeted, and allowed some to write nasty messages to our organization.
We know there can be a big gap between the rhetoric of electioneering and actual practice, but listen to Trudeau. He spoke of the “unique diversity” and “staring down prejudice, discrimination and the creation of an inclusive society.” He wants to discard the negative, divisive politics and asks us to “have faith in our fellow citizens.”
Trudeau ended by stating “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” and that the world will once again hear the compassionate voice of our great nation. Amen!