To some extent I have enjoyed being retired from politics. Mind you, I still check the news several times a day, just in case there is something I need to know.
Sometimes a news story makes my blood boil, but then my mind kicks in and tells me to relax, I’m not on the front lines anymore. That was the case when it was revealed that the Canadian federal government has instituted a beliefs test for employers wishing to hire students under the Canada Summer Jobs program. Groups such as churches that formerly qualified found they could no longer apply. Is it discriminatory? Yes. Is it constitutional? I’d like to see that argued in court. My guess is it might not be, but at the same time governments can put restrictions on programs and there is no “right” to partake in that particular program. I may think it is short-sighted policy, but I could say that about many of the current government’s policies (and to be fair I could say the same thing about the past government also).
I also refrained from commenting on the alleged attack on an 11-year-old Toronto girl who made headlines by saying an unidentified man had attempted to cut off her hijab with scissors as she walked to school. To me the story had more holes than the hijab, but police took it seriously. The Prime Minister weighed in, saying the attacker’s behaviour was un-Canadian.
Turns out he was right for once, because the behaviour didn’t happen. Police have concluded there was no attacker, that the girl made the story up, for reasons yet unpublished as I write this. The media are protecting her privacy by not identifying her – though they had no qualms doing so last week when she supposedly was a victim of a hate crime. I am curious as to her motivation, and I doubt we’ll ever get the whole story.
But what has me writing today is the comment the Prime Minister made upon learning that the incident was fabricated. He said:
“We have seen an unfortunate pattern of increased hate crimes in past months directed towards religious minorities, particularly towards women,” he said, calling such violence “a warning sign of increased intolerance.”
“We are a country that defends freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and people’s rights to go to school without being fearful or harassed,” he said. “This is fundamental to who we are.”
That the number of hate crimes in Canada is increasing from year to year is disturbing. We think we are better than that. And maybe we are – in 2016 only 1,409 of the almost two million crimes reported to police were considered hate crimes. It may be a small percentage, but it is still 1,409 too many.
Tolerance begins at the top, and I don’t see the Prime Minister showing it. I think that statement might come as a surprise to him; the impression I have is that he thinks he is very tolerant.
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that this Prime Minister has difficulty walking the walk when it comes to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. When he won the leadership of his party he announced that those holding pro-life positions were not welcome to become candidates in the forthcoming election. That doesn’t seem to be very tolerant of opposing viewpoints, though perhaps he thinks abortion is a constitutional right. (I’ve read the Canadian constitution; it isn’t.)
The Canada Summer Jobs fiasco is another example. The government can set any criteria it likes for its programs, I don’t dispute that. It would appear intolerant though that the rules are changed to exclude those who do not conform to the Prime Minister’s party’s policy on certain social issues.
In politics appearances are important. Certainly, the man dubbed “Prime Minister Selfie” understands that. Or does he? Recent events have me wondering.