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LOEWEN: Hey Mr. Harper! 'What is going on up in Canada?'

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
October 14, 2015 - 7:00 AM

"CANADA UNDER STEPHEN HARPER HAS SLIPPED A LONG WAY FROM THE VISION OF HOPE THAT IT ONCE WAS"

“What the F*ck Is Going on up in Canada?”

The headline from the Esquire story caught my eye, as it might any Canadian. It’s not often that we come across an interest in Canada from our Big Brother to the south and its mainstream media outlets.

Nor do we catch the attention of many in Europe and elsewhere. Except when Canada ill-distinguishes itself with the Conservative government’s utter antipathy towards science-based findings on climate change and refuses to join global efforts to attempt to ameliorate the damage that we do through our consumption.

Or when our current Prime Minister attempts sliding the slippery federal election campaign narrative into the same racist and xenophobic cesspit that we have come to expect from our American counterparts.

But the man in a blue suit did just that. He went there.

And media outlets across the world have taken notice. In the last week or so, it’s been a hot topic for the likes of The Guardian, The Economist, The Washington Post, the UK’s The Independent, Salon, and Vox, to list but a small sampling.

I find it insulting and galling to even have to address the circumstances that Stephen Harper has put us in. But the sad fact is: I have heard little else on mainstream Canadian media, on social networks where I spend way too much time, or even in listening in on the thoughts and concerns of others in the so-called real world in real time, than the uninformed nonsense that masquerades as personal opinion regarding the non-issue of a woman’s right to wear a niqab!

That Stephen Harper has demonstrated a remarkable consistency in sticking to his ideological guns on just about everything, and expecting and getting the lock-step uniformity of message from the rest of his own caucus, goes without saying.

That Stephen Harper knows the messages that his voter base likes to hear is incontestable; and he has been a shrewd strategist to cater single-mindedly to his voter base. He has never spoken to anyone else but his base.

That Stephen Harper would actually make noises to prick the attention of racists and xenophobes — all in an effort to gain a few more votes in an uncommonly tight contest — is something that I, initially at least, could simply not comprehend.

But then my more reflective historical memory kicks in, and I am surprised no more.

Mr. Harper has displayed a stunning tone-deafness to concerns shared by a numeric majority of the electorate for almost a decade now. And over the course of a seat majority government that he has held since the last election, Mr. Harper has advanced positions that have ramped up the language of fear, and distrust of our fellow Canadians, like never before.

Committed Canadian nationalists from previous Conservative Parties, Prime Ministers like John Diefenbaker and Brian Mulroney — guys with the gut-understanding that Canada was, proudly, an immigrant nation — were simply cut from finer cloth. They were, after all, Progressive Conservatives.

Both my parents and their families were immigrants to Canada. Refugees, in fact.

And my roots came back to me repeatedly, days before Thanksgiving, as we laid my father to rest.

As guests to the celebration shared their reflections, so many of them confirmed what Canada had meant to my father and to our families. That Canada represented a beacon of hope that starkly contrasted with the war-ravaged European homes they had to leave behind. That Canada welcomed them and offered them opportunities to contribute to the greater good. That Canada was a nation of Laws making it impossible to be persecuted as so many had been in countries mad with extremist ideologies.

But Canada under Stephen Harper has slipped a long way from the vision of hope that it once was to good folks like those supporting our grieving family last Friday.

Instead of distancing himself from sensitive issues like a woman’s right to wear what she damned well pleases, Mr. Harper sought to overturn the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to do just that. And in the process he has turned citizens against one another in an ugly, ugly fashion. Even after being roundly slapped down by the Supreme Court in its decision upholding a woman’s inalienable rights.

Despite Mr. Harper’s braying about being a Law and Order kinda’ guy, he holds our Charter and the Supreme Court of Canada in contempt. Mr. Harper is not supportive of Canada’s legal framework to buttress the notion that all of us are equal to one another.

It is imperative that we remain all of our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers if we want to maintain a view of Canada as a place where human rights are respected and where the bottom-line is not always about the bloody bottom-line. That people and their human rights to privacy and an ability to contribute matter more than corporations and their inhumanly narrow economic interests. And that we are a country that is better for its diversity and not in spite of it.

It’s clear to me that it is time to say good-bye to the bogeymen of fear and xenophobia and return to a principled politics that is civil and hopeful and willing to engage with all Canadians once again.

How about you?

— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer who plays music by day and politics by night

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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