There’s an interesting opinion piece, misfiled in the local news section of the Kingston Whig Standard about “Citizenship in a multicultural age.” I emphasize opinion and misfiled because the author, columnist Geoffrey Johnston says things like “Let us be clear: there is no place for anti-Muslim bigotry, discrimination or persecution in Canada. Freedom of religion is a human right and should always be protected. And everyone has the right to practise their religion — as long as doing so does not infringe upon the rights of any other individual … [and] … However, freedom of religion does not mean that religion is immune to analysis, criticism or satire. All religions, including Islam, should be subject to vigorous discussion. And if critics, writers, artists, poets or commentators choose to ridicule or satirize a religion or belief — so be it …[and] … Instead of studying Islamophobia, Parliament should examine what it means to be Canadian in the age of multiculturalism, mass migration and religious diversity. In fact, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should study the writings of his late father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the principal architect of Canada’s multiculturalism policy.” That’s his opinion, it’s not news, and it’s certainly not local news for the ‘Limestone City.’
Mr Johnston offers a lengthy and somewhat fawning but still quite useful review of Pierre Trudeau’s views on the “distinction between the sociological and political definitions of nation,” and the nature of multiculturalism. He concludes that “Political correctness and the timidity of the political class in promoting a national identity threaten Canadian nationhood. The policy of multiculturalism must serve the national consensus and reinforce civic values … [but, first] … Both the left and the right have to stop yelling at one another and calling each other names. Now is the time for a rational, mature discussion of multiculturalism and citizenship … [and] … To that end, Canadian citizenship should be based on civil values, which include liberal democracy, equality of the sexes, the freedoms of expression and speech, tolerance, and national service.“
But it speaks to a different opinion, too: one I discussed about 18 months ago when I quoted Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel as saying that ““It remains true that multiculturalism leads to parallel societies and multiculturalism, therefore, remains a lie.”‘
I asserted, back then, that Pierre Trudeau’s promotion of “multiculturalism” as a way to satisfy both the sociological and political senses of nationhood was a massive intellectual failure because, I said, “it was a comfortable (albeit false) sense of security until more and more Canadians took it seriously. The notion was planted that every culture (a loaded word, I know) was equally “good” and valuable.” But I went father and added that “Cultures which allow, even encourage female genital mutilation and inflict it on young girls and cultures that allow, even encourage and practice “honour killings” are neither equally “good” nor as “valuable” as those which abandoned such barbaric customs centuries ago. Cultures that devalue women, tolerate slavery and stone women for being raped are not “good” or valuable and they are not welcome in Canada.” I stand by that assertion.
Now I need to be very clear culture ≠ religion. It is possible to be a barbaric Christian or Daoist or Jew and it is equally possible, even “normal,” I daresay, to be an entirely civilized Animist, Muslim or Sikh. Being civilized or barbaric is a matter of how we comport ourselves, of what we say and do, not of what we believe.
The reason for Geoffrey Johnston’s journalistic foray into multiculturalism is that, as he says, “Canadian parliamentarians this month are studying “Islamophobia” and “other forms of discrimination and racism.” The study flows from the passage of Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s controversial M-103 resolution, which decries Islamophobia … [but] … the resolution fails to define Islamophobia. Nor does it specifically mention any other forms of discrimination, such as anti-Semitism [and] … Despite what the extreme left in this country would have Canadians believe, anti-Semitism remains the most pervasive and pernicious form of hatred in Canada. The anti-Semitic BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, which seeks to cripple and ultimately destroy the Jewish state of Israel, has spread across Canadian university campuses, intimidating many Jewish students … [but]… the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is holding forth on Islamophobia, taking testimony from various witnesses. What the Trudeau government will do with the committee’s recommendations is anybody’s guess. However, it is possible that the Liberals could conceivably put forward legislation that grants Islam some form of protection from criticism, satire or ridicule — protections that no other religion in Canada enjoys.“
We are headed down an uncertain path … I agree that everyone must have an absolute right to believe whatever they wish, but giving expression to one’s beliefs may become problematical but you must be free to believe in anything at all. Your beliefs, however bizarre or even repulsive I and many others might find them, are your own and you have a right to hold them … but the fact that you believe that homosexuals, for example, are guilty of a grave sin and that death by stoning is the only acceptable fate for homosexuals does not give you any right to put your beliefs into practice … in fact if you try you’ll end up in prison, where you belong. We must protect the right to believe but we must not add a right to, for example, not be offended.
If this, on the left, the famous or infamous Piss Christ, an image of a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine, is art and therefore protected as free speech, then this, on the right, one of the Danish cartoons that got Ezra Levant hauled up in front of a kangaroo court Canadian Human Rights tribunal, is also “art” and equally protected and any attempt by any government to permit one and prohibit the other must be resisted. Any government that would propose such a thing must be voted out of office and consigned to the dung heap of politics where it belongs and be replaced by a responsible, mature government that knows what rights really are.
The Liberals are trying, desperately, to win back the ethnic or “new Canadian” vote that was, reliably, theirs for a generation until about 2005; they want to start with the Muslim community. That’s fine; it’s good politics; by trying, in any way, to give Islam rights or protections that are not fully and equally available to ALL other religions or the government will need to be ejected from office and replaced, quickly, unless we want to be a nations of damned fools.