Monday, March 3, 2014

Some ethnicities and religions are more equal than others--even in Canada, eh?

It is often enlightening to view one's own country from the perspective of an outsider. I discovered the article below on Loonwatch. This isn't the first or only time that Canada has made the Loonwatch. However, Haroon Siddiqui's article from his regular column at the Toronto Star, not only meets his usual high standard for insightfulness and accuracy, but provides a summary of recent and current policies by Canada's current Prime Minister that reflect strong biases against Arabs and Muslims--beyond his well known pro-Israeli stance. Siddiqui also situates them within broader strategies of the current government.

I would only add that Harper courts wealthy immigrants in key ridings. as part of an election strategy modeled on that of Karl Rove in the US.

Emilio Morenatti / Associated Press
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s highly publicized trip to the Ukraine on Feb. 28, 2014, is an unapologetically Conservative mission, not a Canadian one, says Haroon Siddiqui.

How Stephen Harper divides and conquers our many minorities: Siddiqui
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is governing more for his Conservative party than for Canada.

By: Haroon Siddiqui Columnist, Published on Sun Mar 02 2014

Stephen Harper governs not so much for Canada as for his Conservative party. He used to do it by stealth. Now he does it openly, like the Republicans in Washington who, in fact, are beginning to pull back from their partisan brinkmanship just as he is bulldozing ahead with greater arrogance.

Take his proposed changes to the Elections Act, which would favour the Conservatives — gut the power of the chief elections officer Marc Mayrand (who had taken the Tories to court for breaking election laws) and make it more difficult for voters to cast ballots but easier for political parties to raise money.

Take John Baird’s highly publicized trip to the Ukraine — an unapologetically Conservative mission, not a Canadian one.

Take the government’s boycott of the opposition from the Aga Khan’s speech Friday at Massey Hall. Even the MP for the riding, Liberal Chrystia Freeland, was frozen out.

All this follows Harper’s recent trip to Israel and the West Bank, which was crassly political in more ways than one.

At one event there, Conservative MP for York Centre, Mark Adler, barred the respected Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who had gone to Israel on his own dime. Harper’s unusually large delegation of 200 did not have a single Canadian Arab but included a representative of the extremist Jewish Defence League, which works with, among others, the right-wing and Islamophobic British group, English Defence League.

Less known has been Harper’s decision to exclude Baruch Frydman-Kohl, the highly respected rabbi ofthe liberalBeth Tzedec Congregation, one of Toronto’s largest synagogues.

Frydman-Kohl is president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis, which in 2012 denounced the Jewish Defence League for hosting American anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller. Describing her views as “distasteful,” the board said that “there was no sense in inviting her here to speak before a Jewish audience.”

Fryman-Kohl clearly does not fit Harper’s definition of a good Canadian Jew, nor does Cotler.

These examples, as others before, fit into a well-established pattern — Harper’s “you are with us or against us” approach to governing; his hijacking of Canadian foreign policy to serve Conservative interests; and his divide-and-conquer tactics of pitting one ethnic community against another.

He was right to honour the Aga Khan, making him an honorary citizen in 2009 and having him speak to Parliament on Thursday and in Toronto on Friday. But the prime minister’s motives are clearly suspect. His wooing of the Ismaili community in Canada follows the pattern of Conservative niche marketing to several other minorities.

He has done so not only with the Jewish community — in the recent provincial byelection in Thornhill won by the Conservatives, many Jewish voters let it be known that they had, in fact, “voted for Harper.” He has also made inroads into the Hindu, Sikh, Bahai, Coptic Christian, Pakistani Christian and Pakistani Ahmadiyyah Muslim communities.

Nothing wrong in a government paying attention to minority concerns in their ancestral or spiritual homelands — except when the catering to special interests is so obviously tied to fishing for votes and financial contributions for the Conservative party, or worse, it fans rather than reduces old-country troubles in Canada.

In Harper’s black-and-white world, supporting Israel means opposing Arabs in Canada. He has little or no engagement with Canadian Arabs, up to half of whom are Christian, even though at 780,000 they are more than double the Jewish population of 329,000. Not that numbers should dictate policy but a cavalier disregard for specific communities by their prime minister demeans the office he holds.

Harper also ignores Canada’s Muslims, the fastest growing and the youngest demographic in the country, with a median age of 28.9 years vs. the Canadian average of 40.2 years, according to Statistics Canada. At more than one million, they are now nearly three times the population of Buddhists (368,000), more than twice the population of Hindus (498,000), Lutherans and Pentecostals (478,000 each) and Sikhs (455,000), nearly double that of the Christian Orthodox (550,7000) and half as many as those belonging to the United Church (two million).

He has particularly solicited the smaller minorities that have come to Canada escaping persecution in Muslim lands. Their plight was real enough. But he and the Office of Religious Freedom that he established rarely speak out on behalf of persecuted Muslim minorities in such places as Myanmar.

All such selective, ideological, partisan and vindictive activities sacrifice the common Canadian interest in the service of the ruling party. Worse, they exacerbate our differences by pitting one minority against another or stoking divisions within a community. That’s no way to govern a highly diverse, but still united, nation.

Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears on Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiqui@thestar.


What of value have you learned about your own country by reading or listening to others' perspectives?
Are there any similarities or differences in how your country/ current government handles minorities, or specific minorities.
Any other comments, thoughts, feelings?

As for Canada, it seems that for now the loonies are in full flight.

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