By PATRICK HUNTER
One would expect – at least, I did – that the Prime Minister of Canada would be more sensitive to the issue of stereotyping in distributing a message for Black History Month that hones in on just that – a stereotype.
Here is a part of his message: “As 2015 is the Year of Sport in Canada, this month presents an opportunity to pay special tribute to the outstanding Black Canadian athletes, past and present, who have distinguished themselves in sport both at home and around the world.” He then goes on to list a few athletes – Fergy Jenkins, Donovan Bailey, Perdita Felicien, etc.
Yes, it is good to recognize those contributions, and under the circumstances – the Year of Sport in Canada (who knew?), I suppose it is acceptable. But the writer of this statement could have tried to be more sensitive and go deeper by acknowledging wider contributions by people of “African and Caribbean descent”, first and foremost, and refer to the sports’ achievements within the “Year” context later.
The statement ends with a suggestion to view the Canada Post stamp (without even mentioning who is on it) with a link to the Canada Post release honouring Nelson Mandela.
One would also have liked to see that the Prime Minister acknowledges the beginning of the International Decade of People of African Descent. I guess they missed the memo from the Minister of Foreign Affairs whose ambassador to the United Nations would have brought that information to the government’s attention. It feels to me like it would have been better if the Prime Minister did not acknowledge Black History Month at all.
But, there is another matter that concerns me even more. Once again, the Harper Government has insisted on introducing legislation that could seriously curtail what we say and how we say it – or face very serious consequences.
Bill C-51, the short title of which is the “Anti-terrorism Act, 2015”, was introduced in the House of Commons last Friday. But the Prime Minister made his supportive announcement at a speech in Richmond Hill.
Now, it is not unknown for politicians to make grandiose statements to support their positions as if the world only began yesterday. Hyperbole is part of the rhetoric we have come to expect from politicians. At times, it is laughable, then we move on with the precursor: “But, seriously…”
From the Prime Minister’s speech in Richmond Hill: “Jihadi terrorism, as it has evolved, is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced.” Really? After two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis…How does this rank in that context?
Then there were the other “urban guerrilla” groups such as The FLQ in Quebec and the Baader-Meinhof or Red Army faction in Europe to mention just a couple.
Also from the PM’s speech: “Canadians are targeted by these terrorists for no other reason than we are Canadians. They want to harm us because they hate our society and the values it represents. They also hate pluralism. They hate tolerance. They hate the freedom of others, the freedom we enjoy.”
I think, Prime Minister, there are other deeper reasons than that.
My concern is that this ramp-up of security, not unlike what we witnessed after 9-11, would create a scenario in which someone else assesses that a statement that you make critical of the government of the day, could be interpreted as fomenting terrorism. That could get you detained without a charge from three to seven days.
Much of this reaction has been triggered by events of the past few months in which two “lone wolf” attacks on soldiers in Canada were carried out, and the fact that Canadians have been identified as recruits of ISIS. There have also been plots that have been intercepted and for which the accused have been or are on trial. Additionally, events on the international scene have also made it necessary to review the state of our security.
Yes, there is a need to shore up the security to try to prevent these and similar attacks and plots. But, at what cost? How far do we go with preventative measures?
This was just the first reading of this Bill. It is now up to the Opposition to calm things down – to bring back a sense of reality and balance. The official opposition, the NDP, has indicated that they will indeed consult experts in the field to get a more realistic picture as this Bill goes through the process.
We are due for a federal election this year, and it seems that in all probability security will be a top issue. The incumbent Conservatives will no doubt use the opposition parties’ responses to security issues as a platform. It makes you almost want to think that Mr. Harper is verging on terrorist’s tactics to retain power.
“We are more concerned about protecting Canadians than the opposition parties.”
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