Latif | Equity and diversity were shamefully ignored during the election

In the debates, yes, but the Liberal, NDP and Green parties all had substantial commitments whereas the Conservatives, inexplicably, had none:

While pandemic recovery, gun control, and even puppies took centre stage during the federal election, we failed to seize the opportunity to hold our leaders accountable on equity issues.

In the lead up to the election, we had unprecedented conversations about the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on racialized people; anti-Black racism in policing; Islamophobic violence; the unearthing of thousands of Indigenous children who died at Canadian residential schools; and a spike in hate crimes against members of the Asian community. Yet none of the political parties prioritized equity, diversity and inclusion issues in their platforms, tours or advertising.

As voters, we had the power to hold our leaders accountable by asking the hard questions, but we didn’t. Even when there was a moment on the national stage provided by debate moderator Shachi Kurl, we didn’t seize it. Instead, we allowed the conversation around bills 21 and 96 to turn into a conversation about the impact on the horse race and the polls in Quebec, rather than a conversation about values.

I spoke with Erin Tolley, Canada research chair in gender, race and inclusive politics at Carleton University, who suggests party leaders, the media and the public all play a role in sparking — and continuing — these conversations.

Tolley notes that “there is a long history in Canada of parties not seeing a focus on multiculturalism, immigration or diversity as a winning strategy. They see those issues as divisive. All parties know they need to discuss the economy because voters demand it, but these other issues are viewed as niche. If voters don’t put pressure on parties, then parties are going to ignore the issue. So when we’re thinking about who to blame, I don’t only blame parties.”

There have been many campaigns where a catalyzing moment captured media attention and turned equity issues into election issues. I recall the 2011 provincial election, when a $10,000 tax credit to hire an immigrant for their first job in Ontario got leaked before the Liberal platform launch, and became a lightning rod that almost derailed the campaign. Although it was sound policy, the Conservatives tried to make it a wedge issue. I worked with a Liberal team, behind the scenes, to ensure this did not sabotage our efforts.

Another example of an election flashpoint was the tragic death in 2015 of a three-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, which sparked immigration, refugee and asylum debates. The Conservative’s “barbaric cultural practice hotline” was anti-Muslim and ugly but meant to grab votes. Then, the 2019 election focused on gender inequality and systemic racism as pictures of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface surfaced during the election.

But in this year’s campaign, we watched as the debate moment barely scratched the surface; as the racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism faced by Annamie Paul, former leader of the Green Party of Canada, didn’t raise eyebrows; and as NDP MP Don Davies was given a pass on his unacceptable comments against his opponent Virginia Bremner, a Filipino-Canadian woman.

Source: Opinion | Equity and diversity were shamefully ignored during the election

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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