Canadians proved on Monday, much to the dismay of Stephen Harper, that we are not a country of bigots, and we will not accept any such suggestions.
As pundits across the country dissect the election, most are in agreement that the Conservatives chose a poor approach.
Some of the tactics used by the former prime minister were, to say the least, disconcerting.
It seemed that with each passing week, the Harper campaign pulled another fear-mongering ploy – and at times during the campaign, they appeared to be effective.
I found it worrisome.
The Canada I grew up in is one that embraces multiculturalism.
We were raised, and taught in school, that Canada was a country defined by diversity; a cultural mosaic.
The United States was the melting pot, where immigrants came and were expected to assimilate. Canada was a country proud to not only accept immigrants with open arms, but encourage the maintenance of their cultures.
There is no doubt that attitudes changed throughout the world after Sept. 11, 2001. Many countries, ours included, have increased security measures, and changed their immigration laws.
Protecting the country is one thing; taking it to the level the Conservatives were suggesting is quite another.
Harper’s suggestion of a tip line for reporting “barbaric cultural practices” is, simply put, frightening.
First off, what – and who – defines a barbaric cultural practice?
Most would agree that things like forced marriages are in contravention of basic human rights, but how all-encompassing would this tip line become?
There are many cultures in this country, and it’s assured that many cultural practices deemed natural to some are considered barbaric to others.
Fear-mongering, you say?
Perhaps, but hey … it seems to be the thing to do these days; which brings me to the niqab non-issue.
This last-ditch effort of Harper’s to bring to the forefront the bigotry of Canadians could well have been the turning point in his election campaign.
Before going any further, congratulations are in order to Zunera Ishaq, for becoming a Canadian citizen earlier this month.
Congratulations, also, to the Supreme Court for allowing her to wear whatever she chooses to wear, because that is the real issue.
The niqab is no more a symbol of oppression in Canada than is Vancouver Chinatown. Arguably less so.
When Harper said, at the French-language leaders’ debate, “Never will I say to my daughter that a woman has to cover her face because she is a woman,” he missed the point completely.
No one is telling Ishaq to wear a niqab. She chooses to.
So, Mr. Harper, although I applaud you for telling your daughter that she should never have to cover her face because she is a woman, I ask the real question: Would you tell your daughter that she could not do so if she wanted to? Because that is the issue here.
It is not a security issue. It has nothing to do with terrorism.
The niqab ploy was nothing more than a calculated risk, hoping that there were enough intolerants and bigots in Canada to push the Conservatives over the top.
The ploy backfired.
Bravo, Canada, for saying “we are better than that.”
Bravo for acknowledging that we are a country built around multiculturalism. Let’s continue to embrace that status.
Terry Farrell is the editor of the Comox Valley Record