Edit: last paragraph
Almost two years ago I wrote that Dr Kellie Leitch, during the Conservative leadership campaign, “took ownership of the “barbaric cultural practices” theme and will take responsibility for proposing that we “screen” immigrant for “misogynist behaviour” out of a very real and deeply held conviction that too many women and girls are victims of “old country” cultural norms that are imported, in family groups, into Canada and then, when immigrants, as they often do, congregate in their community centres, including temples and mosques, are made acceptable in the “new country,” too. I agree, fully, with her concern … but I disagree with her proposal to, somehow or other, screen for it.” But I said, “I commend Dr Leitch for having “values” and for trying to enunciate them, even though, as Saskatoon Star Phoenix Reporter Jonathan Charlton asked (in the article linked above): Is that not “an example of what you talked about earlier — something that is a good idea but wasn’t communicated as effectively as it could be to the public?” That’s how I see it: the germ of a good idea but one which, like “barbaric cultural values,” was poorly communicated.“
Now, I see that the Conservatives are having the same problem again. A very legitimate concern about the “how” of multiculturalism is blowing up in the faces of both Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer. I do not doubt M. Bernier’s sincerity ~ he has been on about the dangers of ethno-nationalism before, and his concerns have drawn fire from the progressive wings of all political parties.
Mr Bernier, the Globe and Mail reports, says that “he is against identity politics and calls the practice “divisive” following criticism from party leader Andrew Scheer … [and] … In his latest string of tweets, Bernier says he has repeatedly stated he believes it is destructive to focus on cultural and ethnic identity in political discussions … [but] … Bernier says he’s advancing “the opposite of identity politics” by focusing on policy solutions that concern all Canadians … [and] … Bernier’s latest comments on Twitter come after Scheer issued a statement in an attempt to distance himself from previous controversial remarks made by the Quebec MP … [and, further] … In a series of tweets posted Sunday, Bernier said promoting too much diversity could have the effect of dividing Canada into “little tribes” that cause division and erode Canada’s identity.“
Two points, from me:
- First, what M. Bernier is saying is going to, both ~
- Attract a lot of criticism from all the progressive elements in politics and the media, and
- Appeal to a great many Canadians, especially older Canadians, including some from ethnic groups who are afraid that the Canada that made ‘room’ for many millions of people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds will be overrun by people who have very different, very intolerant views about what sort of country Canada should become; and
- Second, what M. Bernier says needs to be debated, openly, calmly in Canada. Too many people are telling Maxime Bernier to shut up because what he says is uncomfortably close to what they fear might be the truth … a truth that they wish would just go away.
The progressives will try to stamp out any debate, especially reasoned debate, because they fear the outcome. In Justin Trudeau’s politically correct Canada one may not hold such contrarian views as M. Bernier does or Gerald Butts will call one a Nazi, and millions of Canadians, like sheep, will follow his lead.
So, even as we tear down statues of the fathers of confederation, because they held views, in the 19th century, that were mainstream then but offend some of us now, in the 21st century, we are afraid to to question the prevailing orthodoxy: the sun, itself, must revolve around this progressive world of ours. It is, for some inexplicable reason, right to remove the great Sir John A from our public spaces, but it is, somehow, wrong to question the values of cultures that permit, even encourage slavery and child marriage and the summary execution of gay men by throwing them off the tops of buildings … somehow we must not mention that the adherents of some cultures hold ‘values’ that are anathema to civilized societies, but we can try to erase great men from our history because they did things that seemed, to most reasonable people, to be right at the time.
We, Canadians, as a society, as a nation, have failed to enunciate our own values … and Twitter is not the right medium to do so. We need rational, reasoned discussion … and that is possible, difficult and unpopular, but possible. Unfortunately, Maxime Bernier has chosen the wrong medium … he chose one where he is hamstrung by the limitations of the platform but one where Gerald Butts can shout back, effectively, with considerable glee. But M. Bernier has opened the debate and Andrew Scheer, to his credit, has responded correctly, like a real adult, by affirming Maxime Bernier’s right to hold and enunciate views that he, Scheer, finds uncomfortable … that is the proper, liberal (which means Conservative in 21st century Canada) thing to do.
I hope that, unlike Dr Leitch’s campaign for values, this will not be turned into dog whistle politics by those on either the ultra-progressive or “angry old white men” political factions. The issue matters and it deserves better consideration than it is now getting. Kudos to Maxime Bernier for raising the issue, but raspberries for the method he has chosen to talk about it.
But, for the Conservative party this should be a non-issue, as Andrew MacDougall, also using Twitter, explains:
Almost everyone who shares M. Bernier’s concerns already votes for the Conservative party, if they vote at all and there are not many votes to be earned in the suburbs around Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal by talking about this issue.
So why is this an issue? Is M. Bernier, as Norman Spector suggests (on Twitter, again) …
… planning to stab Andrew Scheer in the back if he, Scheer, as he might, fails to unseat Justin Trudeau in 2019?
Is Maxime Bernier really a shoo-in for leader? Will his mix of
socially conservative populist* and libertarian policy proposals resonate with enough people. And what about e.g. Erin O’Toole and Lisa Raitt and Michelle Rempel, assuming her French improves enough? And might there be some Ontario Tories willing to jump into federal politics if Andrew Scheer doesn’t win in 2019? What about e.g. Caroline Mulroney, just for example? And might John Baird or even Peter MacKay re-enter the race?
* Edited to delete socially conservative and insert populist. It was a mix up made in haste; in my experience some populists are socially conservatives while many social conservatives are also populists. Maxime Bernier is NOT a social conservative but he is, now, pursuing a populist political model.