Erna Paris: Canada is not immune to the most dangerous tactic in politics

Like Michelle Gagnon, I think Erna Paris overstates the risk.

Let us also not forget that the Conservatives lost decisively in the 33 visible majority ridings (GTA and BC’s Lower Mainland mainly), only winning two ridings to the Liberals 30 (the NDP won one), the overall popular vote for all of these ridings 31 percent compared to 52 percent for the Liberals (see my analysis 2015 Election – Visible Minority MPs Analytical Note).

One cannot win an election in Canada without being successful in these and other ridings with large numbers of visible minorities.

So yes, while the risks are always present, and one can never take things for granted, the political realities temper these as the Conservatives found out to their cost:

There’s a new narrative at play in post-election Canada. The past was dim, but the future is bright. We were worn down after a decade of authoritarian one-man rule and we voted for sunny change.

We also defied the worst of identity politics, we tell ourselves. We collectively rejected Stephen Harper’s opportunistic attacks on vulnerable Muslim women whose religion requires them to cover their face in the public square. “We’re back!” as Justin Trudeau told us.

I hope so. We’ll know soon enough.

But let’s not gloss over how close we came to the sort of majority-minority hostilities that have disrupted other diverse societies, with dangerous results. When the prime minister himself targeted a minority, creating “us” and “them” distinctions over who was, or was not, “Canadian”; when he reinforced these divisions by calling for a snitch line to report “barbaric cultural practices,” we were immediately catapulted into a new social space. In spite of longstanding legal protections for religious practices and laws that penalize defined criminal acts, more than 80 per cent of Canadians sided with Harper. Within days, a woman wearing a niqab was physically assaulted in Toronto. In Montreal, a pregnant woman was pushed to the ground. Social media exploded with anti-Muslim hatred.

None of this should have come as a surprise. I’ve studied the breakdown of multicultural societies, both past and present, and asked myself whether it is possible to pinpoint the steps along the way. And I’ve concluded that, allowing for small differences, the process is always the same. It starts with propaganda – with language purposely designed to marginalize a minority – and it is usually initiated by a respected leader who’s seeking to enhance his power. The shift from peaceful cohabitation into violence can happen quickly. Fortunately, in our case, the election results nipped the movement in the bud.

Source: Erna Paris: Canada is not immune to the most dangerous tactic in politics | Ottawa Citizen

The Conservatives’ veiled pitch for the anti-Muslim vote: Delacourt

Delacourt has it right, both in terms of substance and politics:

What we have here is a textbook case of saying one thing and doing another in politics. The ‘saying’ part is for all the wrong reasons — the ‘doing’ part is for the right ones.

I suspect the Conservative government realized several years ago that it was legally impossible to ban veiled voting. Two attempts were made between 2007 and 2011. Both quietly died on the order paper.

Here’s why: It would amount to singling out certain members of the population for restricted rights. We do allow people to vote in Canada without showing their face at the ballot box — through proxies, or mail-in special ballots. How do you write a law that says some people don’t need to show their faces, but others do?

Moreover, a special law to prohibit the niqab would stomp all over Canadians’ rights to religious expression. That’s probably why the Justice Department lawyer felt he had to point out the non-mandatory aspect of the legislation in Federal Court.

Rather than explain this to Canadians, though, the Conservatives took the path of blustering about niqabs and sending dog-whistle signals to people uncomfortable or fearful about Muslims. Bad statesmanship. Easy politics, though.

We saw that earlier this year, as well, when the Conservatives sent out a fundraising email asking supporters to sign up if they agreed that it was “offensive” to wear a niqab or a hijab at citizenship ceremonies. The email left little doubt that the Conservatives were whipping up these sentiments for reasons of purest electoral politics.

The note was signed by Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and stirred up some controversy with his interchangeable use of ‘niqab’ and ‘hijab’; one is generally associated with full-face coverings, while the other, the hijab, is commonly used to describe a head covering.

To make things even more confusing, not all Conservatives have been using the word “offensive” when it comes to garments of religious expression. Kenney, for instance, said on Twitter in 2013: “A child is no less Canadian because she or he wears a kippa, turban, cross, or hijab to school.” Kenney sent out that missive in the midst of the Quebec debate over the wearing of religious symbols in public.

There’s still a month left in this election and it’s entirely possible that one of the eleventh-hour Conservative campaign promises will revolve around banning veiled voting — again. It would fit well with this week’s bluster on citizenship ceremonies.

This time we might ask them: Why did the last two attempts quietly die? Are they serious this time, or is this just another attempt to whip up some good old-fashioned intolerance?

What’s really being veiled here by all this talk about the niqab?

Source: The Conservatives’ veiled pitch for the anti-Muslim vote