10/07/2015 12:45 EDT | Updated 10/07/2016 05:12 EDT

The Tory Tip Line Will Turn Canadians Against Each Other

Bloomberg via Getty Images
K. Kellie Leitch, Canada's minister of Labour and minister of Status of Women, speaks during an interview at the Bloomberg Canada Economic Summit in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Thursday, May 21, 2015. The Bank of Canada may cut interest rates to zero in the next six to 18 months as a rising Canadian dollar threatens the recovery, according to a Fidelity Investments portfolio manager. Photographer: Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Conservatives are now playing a very dangerous political game.

When Kellie Leitch proposed an RCMP tip line for Canadians to report their neighbours' "barbaric cultural practices," she was not simply positioning herself as a social justice advocate. If she were, she might have instead simply said something like, "if you witness someone committing a crime, call the police." Being able to call the police is, after all, how things work and have worked in Canada for quite some time. We have laws and rights in this country and, above all else, those laws and rights must be followed and respected at all times.

But Leitch is continuing the xenophobic conversations put forth by the Conservatives recently, which appear to have reversed their party's electoral fortunes. With the niqab 'issue' beginning to grow old, the Tories have taken it upon themselves to remind Canadians that there are things separating 'them' -- those who do not have the supposed honour of being called "old stock" -- from 'us.' Now, they propose, if you are uncomfortable with the practices of your neighbours, just pick up the phone.

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 Leitch and her party would classify as such practices.

Of course, none of this is to say that violence -- be it domestic or otherwise -- does not take place in households across the country. Unfortunately it does, in families of all types and demographics, but there are far more effective ways of identifying and ultimately defusing such situations than turning Canadians against each other through race or religion as is now being suggested.

This proposed tip line has already been compared by some to similar situations in place in interwar Germany and the Soviet Union. And while these comparisons may be early, they are certainly not incorrect. Do we really want to head down this very slippery slope?

Apart from the frightening idea that xenophobia is being leveraged as an issue in a federal election in 2015, more troubling still is the idea that one party has the ability to directly inform and simultaneously influence voter opinion over something that was not discussed for two thirds of a campaign that was, until now, dominated by conversations about the economy. Typically, when a leader's fingers are snapped and new issues enter the fray, they are done so to shine a positive light on the party in question. This tip line plan will do no such thing, as it further divides the country's citizens and their neighbours.

There is plenty more to be done to ensure that all Canadians are free of violence and discrimination across the entire country, but proposing an inherently discriminatory system such as this will no doubt have only the opposite effect.

If the Conservatives are promising to protect our security, the first question that we need to ask is whether this security has really been at risk. And if they are promising to protect minority groups from crimes that may or may not be taking place, we ought to at least consider why it has taken them ten years to act. Again, there are far more effective programs that we can put in place to deal with violence and discrimination that would work in conjunction with pre-existing emergency services.


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