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How Politicians Are Using Quebec's Charter to Their Advantage

09/11/2013 05:22 EDT | Updated 11/11/2013 05:12 EST

Hyperopia, commonly known as being farsighted, is a defect of vision caused by an imperfection in the eye making it difficult to focus on near objects. People with hyperopia can experience blurry near-vision, among other symptoms.

It doesn't take a doctor to render this diagnosis. Even a layman can see that farsightedness is afflicting a number of Canadian politicians these days. Whether it is Ontario MPP Monte Kwinter or Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, they've been using Quebec's not-yet-debated, not-yet-modified, not-yet-voted, not-yet-implemented or enforced values charter to score political points at home.

As expected, the feds' peripheral vision did not escape la Belle Province. Prime Minister Harper sent Minister Jason Kenney to speak on the matter of the Charter of Quebec Values. The government expert in dog-whistle policies, two-tierimmigration schemes, and embarrassing racialized outbursts is now waving the tolerance flag. Way to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.

From two time zones and four provinces away, Mayor Nenshi was able to fixate on what he called "intolerance." Nenshi is so clairvoyant, he criticized the Quebec Values Charterbefore it was even made public. Yet, when the Globe and Mail published a report on the epicentre of Canada's neo-Nazi movement in Calgary, its mayor's words were quite sparing.

The city once nicknamed the "Hate Capital of Canada" has struggled with sporadic disparagingremarks and racializedoccurrences. Mayor Nenshi is rarely seen giving this kind of time, attention and lip-service to lingering racial issues in his own city. Alberta has made strides over the years, but there is more work to do still.

Where is the Mayor's blog-post denouncing the local remnants of the intolerance he recognizes in another province? Never mind, that. Mayor Nenshi found his human rights warrior mojo right on time to vault himself again onto the national stage. Some mused whether Nenshi's level of sincerity is matched by his genuine political ambition.

It is amusing that Nenshi would invite Quebeckers, most of whom are francophone, to his unilingual province. Perhaps he's also blind to language discrimination when occurs in his own back yard. The favourite western whipping post that is Quebec makes for a convenient shortcut for building one's political capital. The long and bumpy road towards eradicating intolerance remains the road less travelled.

In Ontario, it's the same script with a different cast. In a province where black and aboriginal children are least likely to graduate, where there is a flagrant racial imbalance in the prison population, MPP Monte Kwinter's priority upon return to Queen's Park is that Ontario "make it clear to the rest of the world that it's not Quebec." In scratching where it doesn't itch, the Toronto MPP is proposing a toothless motion that does nothing to address the systemic discrimination issues in his province's institutions.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
~Martin Luther King Jr.

An Ontario Aboriginal citizen has repeatedly pleaded to replace a racially insensitive sports team name and logo. None of the MPPs have offered full-throated support. Racial profiling by police is a recurring theme in both the Greater Toronto area and in the nation's capital. Has it occurred to anyone at Queen's Park to act towards rectifying the situation?

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, has told Ontarians that she wants to create a "fair society." Fine words, but Wynne needs to turn them into action.

Another MPP, Christine Elliott, said it is important that Ontario affirms "its commitment to religious freedom as part of our fundamental human rights in this province." No word on whether the Ontario government will reverse its decision to ban the turban for would-be helmet-less motorcyclists. The province does not fund all religious schools equally -- only Catholics get that privilege. Ontario also squashed an earlier bid to bring Shariah law to the province: "One Law for all Ontarians," they said. Ontario's own values charter has evolved by osmosis and improvisation rather than in a singular document. Immigrants, often more educated than the Canadian-born, still suffer employment discrimination. But gawking at neighbouring Quebec is much more fun than looking in the mirror.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Political grandstanding on the back of Quebec is a cutesy tactic to pledge allegiance to the local ethnic vote and to cozy up to countless other countrymen. But the side-effect of far-sightedness is a string of empty words. After politicians of all stripes break out in a chorus of "Kumbaya," a visit to the optometrist would be beneficial. With corrective lenses, they can gaze at glass houses.

Quebec Values Charter