By TOM GODFREY
All the federal politicians boast that they are good friends of the Black community and that their doors will be open to us when a new leader is chosen on October 19.
The three main political leaders have made dozens of whistle stops in Toronto and the GTA and have spent countless hours staging elaborate photo-ops to woo ethnic voters.
Conservative leader Stephen Harper, Liberal Justin Trudeau and NDP Thomas Mulcair have made frequent trips to Brampton, Markham and parts of British Columbia trying to lure South Asian and Chinese voters into the fold.
They have, it seems, spent less time meeting with members of the Black community, aside from a jaunt here for the annual Caribbean carnival. Many believe the inattention is due to the lack of votes to be gained since our votes are scattered and there is no glue of an issue propelling the community into the national spotlight.
Some in our community have tried to make the police carding of Blacks a national issue but it has failed to gain momentum. Carding is a concern facing Toronto-area Blacks and brown-skinned men and does not register with voters in Manitoba or Saskatchewan.
The party leaders have said the practice is not right and no one should be targeted for random checks by police. The candidates, when asked, quickly bounced the question back to the Ontario government and Toronto City Council, who they said have to first deal with the issue.
Even prominent Toronto-based political contenders have refused to touch the sensitive carding issue, citing that it is not a federal matter and has to be dealt with locally.
There are few votes for politicians to gain since the carding issue only affects certain communities and does not bring in a lot of donations or volunteers. Change will not happen federally until Blacks, brown-skinned men and others carded by police speak out across the country to make the matter a national issue.
Things will not budge until the community makes carding a priority issue of national importance. We have to keep lobbying and pushing all levels of government for changes to occur.
There are many good and talented Black candidates who are seeking federal office; but have to follow a party leader’s vision and talking points if elected.
Maybe one day we will have a federal statute that bans carding by all police forces across the country. We know the hellish practice is now carried out by police in Toronto, Peel Region, Hamilton and so many other jurisdictions across the country.
The other major political issue facing members of our diversified communities in the campaign is displeasure with Canada’s role in the resettlement and plight of Syrian refugees fleeing danger as they trek through Europe seeking shelter.
Ottawa is accepting 10,000 of the Syrians by September next year. A Syrian Refugee Resettlement Program has been created with $600,000 allocated to help the families adapt to a new life in Toronto.
The party leaders are also zeroing in on the niqab argument and if Muslim women should be allowed to wear their headdress during Canadian citizenship swearing in ceremonies.
It is odd that only two women have requested niqab protection; yet the debate has dominated Quebec and parts of Canada.
Even though the economy, jobs, infrastructure spending and health care dominate the political agenda, we have to choose the best candidate who can represent us all for the next term. The leaders have been to some of our functions and know the concerns that we face.
We have to vote for those who will help us and the community grow and prosper free of carding and other concerns. And it is up to us to start knocking on their door for help as soon as the next prime minister is elected.