Friday, October 19, 2007

Playing politics with minorities for electoral gain

The Harper boys should be getting very uncomfortable with the flames they've fanned...

Recall our PM making a big stink out of Muslim women voting in the recent Quebec by-elections and not lifting their veils. He did that the week before the Quebec by-elections. And he did it despite the Elections Act not requiring visual identification. So it is difficult to believe that Harper's public indignation was anything but meant to pander to the undercurrent in Quebec presently manifesting itself in a backlash against minorities, as verbalized in hearings held throughout the fall by the Quebec government commission on reasonable accommodation of minorities. The success of the ADQ in the spring election in pandering to such sentiment must have been quite the inspiration for the federal Conservatives. And we learned on Tuesday that his party is picking up the torch in the throne speech, and has announced that they will pursue the "veil" issue and ensure that the Elections Act is amended to require visual identification of voters.

Meanwhile, the Globe affirms today that Harper's pursuit of the veil issue is being done at a very sensitive time:
Federal officials have privately warned the Conservative government that Quebec's debate over reasonable accommodation of minorities is spreading across Canada and could trigger "alarming" divisions in the country.
...
"There is now a sense of urgency to more clearly define and explain the principle of reasonable accommodation, as alarming shifts regarding the split between 'them' and 'us' may occur," the briefing says. "This is of particular concern in Quebec, at a time when the government is putting programs in place to close gaps affecting minority groups."

The document notes that while the debate is focused on Quebec, it is also taking place in the rest of Canada, "albeit on a smaller scale for now." The paper informs Mr. Kenney that the "politicization" of the debate in Quebec suggests a "a certain split in Quebec between the French Republican model of managing religion in the public sphere and the traditional Canadian multiculturalism model."

The briefing notes, which were obtained by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin, surface as the Conservative government prepares legislation forcing voters to show their faces when casting ballots. The measure responds to recent controversy that current laws allow voters to wear a face-covering veil.

At the same time, Mr. Kenney and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are singing the praises of multiculturalism like never before. Mr. Kenney has twice cited a commitment to multiculturalism in the House this week to explain why the Prime Minister sent Rosh Hashanah greeting cards to Jewish Canadians.
Do you see the hypocrisy of what is going on? Hammering the veil issue to play to base resentment of such differences while pursuing their "ethnic outreach" programme at the same time.

Why did the Prime Minister make his big fuss over veils? It's not like Muslim women objected to raising their veils en masse or anything. In face, it was a non-issue in these Quebec by-elections until the Prime Minister decided to make it a very public one. Could it have something to do with his real views on the issue?

Mr. Harper was quoted at a 1991 Reform Party convention as saying bilingualism and multiculturalism are the "pet projects of a political priesthood" that don't represent the wishes of Canadians.

In light of the warnings to the federal government in their own internal report, of a nascent backlash against minorities due to the issue of reasonable accommodation in Quebec, it makes Harper's politicization of the veil issue in advance of those by-elections, and continuing with his pursuit of the issue in the throne speech, seem highly irresponsible and incredibly risky.

And let's not forget about the neo-Nazis demonstrating in Calgary last weekend against veiled voting.

What is it about these Conservative Prime Ministers and their propensity to roll the dice when it comes to political gain in Quebec? They seem to be willing to pay quite a price for it...