Alberta is changing. What was once a stronghold now feels like the way we hold someone's hand when we're about to break up with them. In the ten years I've lived in Calgary, this city and this province has undoubtedly changed. So much so that sometimes it feels like I've moved to a whole other world. This is likely the first Federal election where Albertans, especially in the urban ridings, have a chance for their vote to actually matter. And I mean that literally.
Whatever the outcome on October 19th, the coming election will bring about a conclusion to an exhausting but exciting political thriller while, at the same time, putting an end to three long months of non-governance in this unique democracy.
There is nothing intrinsically "Canadian," let alone "conservative," about leveraging insecurity, racism and xenophobia for votes through ethnic scapegoating. That is not a "conservative" strategy; it's a fascist strategy with a long and bloody history, and it has no place in Canada. On October 19th, we have a chance to "take our country back." We have the chance to declare once and for all that who and what we are as Canadians is no longer for sale. We have a chance to steer Canada off its collision course with history, to save it from derailing and crashing beyond our ability to recognize it, let alone repair it.
What is most telling is that even given the divisive and downright xenophobic campaign the Conservatives have run thus far, they are still within striking distance to form government. This carefully crafted U.S.-style Republican narrative has set Canada on an extremely dangerous course, and one that only Canadian voters can steer back to the right path. From "old stock Canadians" deserving of greater government benefits, to the ridiculous niqab debate, to the absurd hotline dedicated to reporting "culturally barbaric" practices, the Conservatives are pulling no punches in their quest to mobilize their voter base.
Without sounding obvious, it all starts and stops with you. Your behaviour does impact what will happen. How you choose to discuss issues with others does have influence. How you choose to collect information to inform your decision does inspire the end result. And in the end, it does come down to this. Choose to vote and something will happen. Choose not to vote and something different will happen.
Yes the Syrian refugees that briefly broke our hearts are real people living a nightmare, but let's see even more, let us "think with history". Their situation, as any situation, was borne of consequence. They are a living mass of real life repercussions.
Aside from the ludicrous notion that anyone other than Canada's Native population is truly "old-stock Canadians," there is a certain divisive, chamber-pot snobbery to the term. It's not a celebration of "lineage," it's a wedge. It has no use other than to separate the speaker from others. Without even having to wonder why it was never used in our house, I know that my parents would have considered it vulgar. We are all "old-stock" Canadians, no matter where we're from, or how recently we've arrived.
In light of recent announcements that the current government plans to sell off the CBC buildings across this land -- the very art of cultural commentary might not be long for this nation. As Harper slowly dismantles every political and cultural institution intrinsic to the Canadian way of life I wonder -- will the future Joni Mitchells, Leonard Cohens and Neil Youngs be left to fend for themselves?
When I first started wearing a hijab about four years ago, I remember people asking me, "Aren't you afraid?" But I told them I wasn't going to be intimidated. While I don't wear the niqab, I feel as a hijabi that every word Stephen Harper utters against it is targeted to me personally. Telling women what to wear is a slippery slope, it has always been. I know it's only a matter of time until Harper declares wearing a hijab a "barbaric cultural practice." As Harper uses the niqab debate as a political weapon, and as we say the practice makes us uncomfortable and call it strange, let's not forget Harper's words and our own are hurting real women.
After months of an on-air campaign claiming Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is "just not ready" to be prime minister, another gruelling 78-day election campaign spewing the now tired slogan and, indeed, almost 10 years in office, it's become evident that Harper himself just isn't ready for an increasingly diverse Canadian future. The duplicitous, short-term Conservative strategy of stoking racial tensions for xenophobic votes will have the long-term impact of alienating future electors who clearly hold the cards on which party will dominate federal politics in the coming decades if not sooner.
With Canada's federal election less than two weeks away, I felt it important to address a highly topical matter: the Conservatives' close relations with the controversial Jewish Defense League. In 2001, after it had engaged in a series of bombings, an assassination, and several other violent incidents, the JDL was labeled a "violent extremist Jewish organization" and a "right-wing terrorist group" by the FBI.
Karen Selick recently wrote the most honest column we will see in this election campaign -- Ms. Selick would permit "niqab-wearers" the benefit of Canadian citizenship, so long as they continued to play by her rules. If they did not, she suggests Canadians ought to deny them service at restaurants, refuse them as renters and as employees. What Ms. Selick fails to understand is she is affirming that her own membership is conditional.
The issue here is that such a tip line will do nothing but draw deeper lines in the ground between race, religion, and so on. We will notice that "barbaric cultural practices" is a purposefully vague descriptor that could encompass a plethora of different acts, yet Canadians are only left guessing as to what Kellie Leitch and her party would classify as such practices. This proposed tip line has already been compared by some to similar situations in place in interwar Germany and the Soviet Union.
As election day draws inevitably closer, I'm struggling to decide what to do. The planet simply can't handle another five years of Stephen Harper in power. During his time as prime minister, Canada has become a climate change pariah. He's done about as much as one can, both at home and abroad, to stymie efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Building a just, clean energy economy that works for people and the planet starts with a prime minister that understands the basic math that climate action and tar sands expansion just don't add up.
"Where is Canada?" In Turkey and Jordan recently, this was the question we heard over and over, from Syrian refugees themselves, crisis intervention workers, medical professionals, human rights activists and others dedicated to helping Syrians.To friends and family, I referred to my time in the region as a tour of shame, as a Canadian. There was a clear perception among the people we spoke with that Canada preferred Christian asylum seekers, and this explained the delays and inaction. As the now-infamous photo of Alan Kurdi reminds us, there is an immediate need for Canada to show leadership in developing a concrete solution.
When the Muslim Canadian Congress called for an outright ban on the wearing of the niqab or the burka, they have gone too far. But that doesn't mean that we have to celebrate such restrictive clothing. Apart from the degrading and misogynistic aspects of burkas and niqabs, they offend against a fundamental implicit tenet of our society.