The word ‘racism’ doesn’t appear anywhere in the Conservative party’s campaign platform

Notable and significant:

Discrimination against visible and religious minorities in Canada has been hotly debated during the year leading up to this summer’s federal election, but the issue gets scant mention in the campaign platform released by the Conservative party this week.

The words “racism” and “antisemitism” do not appear anywhere in the party’s 160-page policy platform, which largely focuses on the fallout and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor are there any references to Black Canadians.

And in the aftermath of the deadly June attack targeting a Muslim family in London, Ont. — which saw Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole calling for “urgent action” to support Canadian Muslims — the term “Islamophobia” is missing, too.

The omissions are somewhat at odds with the opening notes of the platform, in which O’Toole writes that it is “time for Conservatives to take inequality seriously, because that’s becoming more of a problem in our country,” and says that Canada is a society where “everyone can fulfil his or her potential.”

It also doesn’t address last year’s nationwide call for racial justice, sparked by a reckoning over police brutality targeting Black and Indigenous people.

Instead, the document tackles discrimination and bridge-building through the lens of international human rights and foreign policy, rather than grappling with its existence in Canada.

Among a handful of proposals, the Conservatives would establish an Office of Religious Freedom and Conscience that advises cabinet ministers “on threats to international security, engages in diplomacy to religious communities, and informs Canadian international development programs to promote freedom, pluralism, religious coexistence and tolerance.”

The Conservatives are also promising to appoint the country’s “first Muslim ambassador and first ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation” to help engage with the world’s Muslim-majority nations.

The party also wants to see the creation of an international human rights advisory committee, made up of a “broad range of cultural and religious communities in Canada” to advise the government on issues abroad.

Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said that while the platform is “light” on addressing domestic Islamophobia, it does offer some encouraging promises.

The Tories acknowledged, for example, their support for the Muslim minority Uyghur population in China, and said they would boost funding and expand the accessibility of the Ottawa’s security infrastructure program, which helps protect places of worship and other institutions from hate-motivated attacks.

“Certainly, I would have liked to see clear articulations about … what they’re going to be doing to challenge Islamophobia through clear policy promises and commitments,” Farooq said.

On the other hand, the New Democrats — the only other major federal party to release its policy promises — are running on a platform that has dedicated an entire plank to confronting racism and other forms of discrimination, though the details are vague.

The NDP document emphasizes the rise in hateful incidents facing Muslim, Jewish and Black Canadians, along with Indigenous people. The party is promising to enact a national action plan to “dismantle far-right extremist organizations” and address “white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.” The NDP is also pledging to better identify and catalogue hate-related incidents and how they are handled within Canada’s justice system.

The collection of race-based data, reviewing employment discrimination and addressing the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous people in the federal prison population also factor into the NDP plan.

Both the NDP and the Conservatives, however, have pledged to counter online hate, with the New Democrats seeking to convene a national working group on the issue and the Tories promising to criminalize statements that encourage violence against other groups while protecting non-violent forms of speech and criticism.

The two parties have also put forth specific reconciliation plans focused on addressing the injustices wrought by the residential school system, self determination, economic development and improving access to clean drinking water.

Source: The word ‘racism’ doesn’t appear anywhere in the Conservative party’s campaign platform

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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