Justin Trudeau voted YES to Harper’s “Zero Tolerance for #BarbaricCulturalPractices Act”
There is a dangerous double standard at the heart of our outraged collective response to Stephen Harper’s Machiavellian political tactics.
When the Conservative leader turned the 2015 federal election campaign into a divisive circus about niqabs and “barbaric cultural practices”, we accused him of playing a “dangerous, xenophobic game“. In an editorial, the Toronto Star asked: “Can Stephen Harper stoop any lower on the niqab?”
We accused Harper of poisoning his support base with the politics of fear and racism. Our collective outrage against his small-minded bigotry found its greatest expression in the Twitter hashtag #BarbaricCulturalPractices.
Trouble is: there’s no such justified outrage directed at Justin Trudeau. The Liberal leader helped create the poisonous race card Harper is now using to divide the country.
Trudeau voted for Bill S-7
For the gullible among us, #BarbaricCulturalPractices is one of those fancy Twitter hashtags sired by a competitive – and potentially-historic – election campaign. It’s not.
#BarbaricCulturalPractices is offspring of an actual law passed by the Parliament of Canada early this year: Bill S-7, the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”, which sailed through the Commons by a vote of 185 to 86. Trudeau and 29 other Liberal MPs voted YES. They participated in the legislation of official hatred against the Other.
“The title is truly unbelievable. It does not belong on a piece of legislation,” said Green Party Elizabeth May in March.
Bill S-7 is written in the language of violence. It appeals to racial supremacy. It’s a call to embraced “zero tolerance” against the Other’s perceived barbarism. A call to violence.
Earlier this month, a pregnant Muslim woman was attacked in Montreal. A Muslim convert was attacked while wearing the niqab in Toronto.
In Ottawa this week, “three women wearing head scarves were verbally attacked by strangers, including one in a polling station.” The attackers demanded that their victims “talk in English”, “go back to your country”, “take that fucking thing off your head”. One woman was branded a “fucking terrorist”.
The police were “reluctant” to associate the Montreal attack with racism or hate crime.
Trudeau’s voting record
But what irks me the most about Trudeau’s “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” YES vote is that the Liberal leader especially prioritized Bill S-7.
MPs are elected to represent their constituencies. They’re elected to participate in debates in the House of Commons. Trudeau’s recent voting record in the chamber is atrocious. A recent Ottawa Citizen analysis of House of Commons records, published in May, revealed that, since becoming Liberal leader in 2013, he achieved an overall record of 39,8 per cent. His scores for 2014 and 2015 are 38.1% and 39.1%, respectively. Even Harper bested Trudeau, scoring an overall 48.1% since becoming prime minister in 2006. Thomas Mulcair bested them both with overall 61.1% score since becoming NDP leader in 2012.
Trudeau took no part in the debate on S-7.
We expected Trudeau to argue that Bill S-7, whose official description is, “An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts“, was ridiculous. It sought to combat practices Canadian laws already deem illegal. Forced marriages, honour killings and polygamy are already outlawed in Canada.
We expected Trudeau to ask whether Mormon polygamists in British Columbia would also be in Harper’s “zero tolerance” line of fire. We expected him to question the male Christian fundamentalist’s belief that a woman should submit to her husband.
We expected the Liberal leader to argue that Bill S-7 is a key plank in Harper’s ongoing “cultural war on Muslim women“, which is an extension of the Conservatives’ war on Canadian women.
Trudeau could make time to present these arguments. But he found the time to make a presence in the House and cast a YES vote. Was this another one of the Liberal leader’s “principled” positions?
Fear of immigrants
Turns out we expected too much in this moment of colorblindness where the myth that we’ve moved beyond race as a nation still lingers. Subtle racism is alive and well in Canada.
During an Up For Debate forum in September, Trudeau was asked about the root causes of burgeoning violence against women in Canada. The Liberal leader blamed “certain types of music – there’s a lot of misogyny in certain types of music”, “shifting parental roles” and “a lot of communities in which fathers are less present…” Toronto journalist Desmond Cole decoded Trudeau’s “subtle racism”, accused him of making a “careless nod to anti-black stereotypes“.
The Liberal leader made a veiled pitch for support from the prejudiced among us. Meanwhile, the niqab issue briefly elevated the Conservatives’ fortunes in Quebec.
The last few days of the campaign have been a grand act in collective forgetting. That Trudeau skipped the vote on Bill C-24, the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act”, Harper’s “anti-immigrant, anti-Canadian, anti-democratic, and unconstitutional” law, we conveniently forgot. Bill C-24 creates a discriminatory “two-tier citizenship regime” that relegates “over one million Canadians to second-class status”.
If opinion polls are to be believed, we’ve agreed to hold on to the questionable notion that Trudeau and the Liberals are still committed to multiculturalism. The best alternative to Harper, our best hope for the return of the Canada of progressive liberalism, is the man who voted YES to Bill C-51, Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, and Harper’s other egregious bills.
If the polls are to be believed, we’ve been persuaded to ditch the genuine bearer of real change, Thomas Mulcair.
Around the Web:
- Canadians incapable of dealing with what actual change might look like at polls – Hill Times
- Pregnant Muslim woman attacked by Montreal teens, police say – CBC News
- Ottawa police ask Muslim women to report abuse after several verbally harassed – Ottawa Citizen
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