In Canada we hardly confront racism perpetuated by political figures. As a consequence, Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s government and Conservative MPs are having a field day practicing racism and creating resentment towards minority groups dominated by persons of color.
Earlier this year, Harper’s immigrant-bashing minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, introduced draconian cuts to health benefits for refugees, including coverage for pre-natal care. The majority of refugee seekers are persons of color, trauma survivors and other vulnerable people.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal warned that the cuts, implemented through the government’s Bill C-31, posed serious mental health risks for refugees. Daniel Garcia Rodriguez, a refugee applicant, almost went blindthanks to the cuts. The House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, chaired by Conservative Kevin Sorenson, recently recommended the use of electronic ankle bracelets on failed refugee claimants.
Jewish-American political activist, Nobel laureate, writer, professor and holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, has appealed to Canada to return to sanity. He said:
I feel morally compelled to remain on the side of other uprooted men and women everywhere. Today, as yesterday, a nation is judged by its attitude towards refugees.
But Wiesel’s voice, like that of millions of progressive Canadians, fell on deaf ears. Kenney, the Conservative MP for Calgary South East, even got away with posting a petition on his website - jasonkenney.ca - asking Canadians to thank him for the backward-looking and vindictive cuts.
Enter Kelly Block, the Conservative MP for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar. Last week, she “celebrated” Kenney’s cuts with a flyer mailed to members of her riding.
“New arrivals to Canada have received dental and vision care paid by your tax dollars. They’ve had free prescriptions. Not anymore,” the flyer reads.
Canadians are outraged.
In Parliament on Tuesday, the official opposition NDP said the flyer was “offensive” and called on Block to apologize.
“She is bragging about denying medication for kidney disease to an elderly woman or care to a young woman who is 18 weeks pregnant due to a sexual assault,” said Jinny Sims, the MP for Newton-North Delta in B.C. “This flyer is offensive and misleading. Will the member apologize?”
Outside Parliament, Canadians are seething. Many in Block’s constituents are angry, and have called the flyer racist and misleading.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Dr. Mahli Brin-damour, a constituency member who has received the offensive material, according to Postmedia News. “It’s biased and misleading. It’s trying to pit Canadians against this vulnerable group.”
Dr. Ryan Meili, who ran for the leadership of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party in 2009, has called the mail-out “openly racist, seeking to pit Canadians against some of the most vulnerable people in our society”. The MLA for Saskatoon Massey Place and Immigration and Health Critic for the Provincial NDP, Cam Broten, has characterized the flyer as both disgusting and trivial.
The Star-Phoenix editorial board isn’t at all impressed. It has accused Block of painting “all new arrivals to Canada with the same brush as those whom Immigration Minister Jason Kenney suggests are claiming refugee status merely to get their teeth fixed.”
A new Facebook page, “Tell MP Kelly Block I Disagree with Racism”, had received 1 240 “Likes” as of Thursday. The page accuses Block of working hard to divide Canadians. The page’s welcome message rebukes the MP:
As constituents of Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, and as citizens of Canada, we object to Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP Kelly Block’s use of taxpayer dollars to promote hatred and misinformation!
The people behind the group are hosting a protest outside the MP’s office on Saturday.
Has the Conservative Party of Canada now adopted racism as a covet political strategy? It’d seem so. The individuals embroiled in all these controversies are either influential in the party or close to Harper. Devout Christians too.
Jason Kenney is already positioning himself to succeed Harper as Canada’s prime minister. In 2001, another Conservative MP Rob Anders prevented the House of Commons from making Nelson Mandela an honorary Canadian citizen. He called the black South African anti-apartheid icon a “terrorist”. In June 2011, Harper appointed Block, a former mayor the town of Waldheim, Chair of the Saskatchewan Regional Caucus.
Most appalling is the Harper Government‘s disdain for international humanitarian law. And simple political decency. Under Harper, Canada is fast becoming the nightmarish country George Orwell imagined in his classic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. The double-speak. The manipulation of language and emotions. The false claim that it’s all in the name of protecting Canadians.
Kenney’s Bill C-31 is christened “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act”. Now he’s seeking a new power to bar certain people from entering Canada. Even as critics argue that his current powers are already excessive. In fact, Kenney seems to have succeeded in convincing some Canadians that the country is overrun by dark-skinned “foreign criminals”. He’s introduced a bill that will expedite the deportation of the criminals, the so-called “Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act”. Block’s website celebrates the legislation.
Luckily, Canadians aren’t giving up on the noble task of cleansing Canadian politics of offensive and bigoted politicians. The likes of Conservative MPs Kelly Block, Jason Kenney and Rob Anders.
MORE RELATED POSTS:
- Canada’s “Refugee Exclusion Act” Clears Commons
- Immigration and Refugee Board Adjucator David McBean Must Go
- US anti-immigrant group blames immigrants for global warming
Photo via Canada.com