2019(5) Khadr, Money, Muslims and the Ethnic Votes

A few weeks ago I suggested that“Money and ethnic votes” came to define Jacques Parizeau … a $10.5 Million payoff and a formal apology to a terrorist should, equally, come to define Justin Trudeau.

Andrew MacDougall, who was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s communications director, says, in an article in MacLean’s, that while “A clear majority of Canadians might oppose the payout to the former Guantanamo Bay inmate … a second poll released in the wake of the government’s decision confirms they haven’t yet transposed their opposition to support for the Tories, with the Liberals retaining all of their healthy lead over the anti-Khadr Conservative opposition … [and, he explains that] … The most straightforward way to read the recent polling is that while most Canadians opposed the Khadr settlement, they don’t feel strongly enough about it to change their party support. That’s a problem—and there are lessons to be learned for an opposition party with a new leader, as it slowly gears up for an election two years down the road.

Amongst the lessons Mr MacDougall says Conservatives need to learn are:

  • One is that heading to America to press a perceived political advantage, as Peter Kentand Michelle Rempel have done in recent weeks, may turn off Canadians. Some of the people who find the settlement distasteful might also share the same opinion of Canadian lawmakers who go down to the United States to shout about how much it stinks;”
  • It also illustrated something else: the Conservatives’ apparent inability to see beyond the base. Lord knows Justin Trudeau’s supporters aren’t watching Fox News, nor are they likely to care if Fox News pooh-poohs their man;”
  • Instead of focusing on the more nuanced questions about the settlement—about the precise timing, the particular amount, or the impact of Tabitha Speer’s court proceeding on deliberations—the Conservatives are shouting out their usual simple refrain of “terrorist” at full volume.

First, while the Laurentian Elites stay, no doubt, well away from Fox News, there was and still is “spillover” from the Kent-Rempel attacks in e.g. The Washington Post, which the Laurentian Elites do read, where it is now more common to see Canadian and Americans being critical of the new Trudeaumania. But, that being said, I agree that many (most?) Canadians agree with the late US Senator Arthur Vandenburg who said that “we must stop partisan politics at the water’s edge,” by which he meant the nation’s borders.

When, as Andrew MacDougall says, Conservatives shout ““terrorist” at full volume,” we risk alienating a lot of naturally conservative new Canadian voters, including Muslim Canadians. We did that in 2015 with our position of “barbaric cultural practices” and the niqab. I’m no expert on Islam (nor am I especially well informed about any religion) but the Muslims I know are pretty much like almost everyone else I know: honest, hard working, moderate people. Yes, some mosques practice segregation, at worship services, by sex; so do some Jewish synagogues and some temples from other religions … anyway, it appears that, although they are more religiously observant than, say, mainstream Christians, most Muslims don’t even attend mosques on a regular basis. Yes, some  Muslims have been convicted of “honour killings” but it is not just Muslims who commit such heinous crimes. And yes, again, a few Muslims practice female genital mutilations, but it is a practice that is too widespread in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and it is a sad custom amongst some Muslims and some non-Muslims, too.

When we criticize Prime Minister Trudeau for paying Khadr $10.5 million we must acknowledge that Omar Khadr and, indeed, the whole Khard clan, is sui generis; most Muslims are far, far, far different from Khadr ~ they are our colleagues at work, our neighbours and our friends. There are legitimate, nuanced questions about the Khadr payoff and Conservatives need to keep asking them, but, simultaneously, we need to reach out to Muslim Canadians and assure them we, Conservatives respect them as Canadians and we, likely, share many social, economic and political values. We failed at that. A report in the Toronto Sun says that “For those who disclosed how they voted, 65% voted Liberal with the NDP showing a poor second place at 10%. Only 2% voted Conservative.” There are over 1 million Muslims in Canada, if only ½ of them can vote and if only ½ of those who can do vote it still means that more than 150,000 of themvoted Liberal, enough to swing several ridings, and only 5,000 Muslims voted for Conservative candidates. That is, in my opinion, a self inflicted wound.

Let us, by all means, keep the Khadr payoff “front and centre,” here in Canada; let’s hammer Justin Trudeau about the “nuanced questions about the settlement—about the precise timing, the particular amount, or the impact of Tabitha Speer’s court proceeding on deliberations;” but let’s do it while, simultaneously, reminding the vast majority of Muslim Canadians that they, and their beliefs, are welcome here in Canada, to live in peaceful harmony with their neighbours in Agnostic, Bahá’í, Christian, Daoist, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh and other faith communities.

 

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