When Justin Trudeau was elected in 2008 it was clear to everyone that he could never be destined for the backbenches. They sat Justin Trudeau directly behind me in the House and for almost three years I got a ringside view of his development. His rhetoric, at times bawdy, nevertheless carried intensity in the Parliamentary chamber. I was asked more frequently than I could count whether he was the real deal or just his father's son. My answer was always the same: both.
Nothing in recent history had redefined what it means to be Canadian more than Bill C-24. This bill, made into law, allows the government to take away the citizenship of undesirables. Although currently limited to acts of terrorism, the government has expressed an interest in using this law against other acts.
Austerity, privatization, deregulation, outsourcing -- yada, yada, yada -- all served up with noxious sides of deficit hysteria and tax cuts, not to mention the attendant knee-capping of government's ability to act. Brian Mulroney. Jean Chretien. Paul Martin. Nods to the knuckle-draggers aside, Harper's just peddling more of the same. Seriously, can anyone point to a substantive change in the country's direction over the past few decades?
In response to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, our current Canadian government has reluctantly offered some support. We shall, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accept 10,000 refugees over the next three years. As medical students committed to global health, we call into question this lukewarm commitment to such a pressing crisis and call for stronger commitments in line with Canada's values.
The photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach awakened many voters to the human cost of our hardened, fear-based approach to immigration and foreign policy. But equally important and more difficult to acknowledge is the way the refugee crisis has cast an uncomfortable light on the question of who "we" are, and how our laws make us. To understand the anemic Canadian response to the refugee crisis, we must place it in the context of a broader policy overhaul that has radically reshaped the meaning of citizenship in Canada.
Despite the fact that Canadians are in the deep and lazy days of summer, there has been more interest in the federal election campaign that many believed unlikely. It's not due to the parties, their leaders, or their policies. With most of the election still ahead of us, those aspects will likely become more prominent. No, it's likely that healthy attention to this election season is due to a kind of restless desire amongst Canadians for change. This could well be the real story of Canada's 42nd federal campaign. It's not really about who is chosen but the choosers themselves.
I'm not sure which Canada to celebrate this year. In the past I celebrated John Diefenbaker's Canada, the one that introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights, Pierre Elliot Trudeau's Canada, that birthed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Mulroney's Canada that fought to end Apartheid. But in Stephen Harper's Canada, what is there to celebrate? In Harper's Canada, citizenship, now considered a privilege, has two tiers.
Actions matter more than words, but in his speech to Americans, Obama's words overshadowed his actions. He spoke to hearts and minds, outlining an aspirational set of shared values on immigration. His subtext was 'we're not there yet,' but speaking ten steps ahead of hearts and minds is how to get there.
I heard a story this week about a civics lesson. It did not take place in a high school. It was a lesson both learned and taught by some elderly newcomers who were participants in a civic awareness project. Along with learning to speak English and finding out about the systems and the laws of Canada, these folks are being challenged to engage with their new communities.
In case those of you who are Canadian-born and not just naturalized citizens are wiping your brow in relief and resting on your laurels, think again. Canadian-born and raised Deepan Budlakoti is facing deportation under the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act because of drug and gun offenses. It is not clear to where Mr. Budlakoti will be deported to since he was born here and has no ties to any other country.