Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday June 10, 2021
What happened in London should be a pivot point for Canada — and its politicians
In a speech in 2015, while reflecting on Canada’s treatment of minorities, Justin Trudeau said that the inclusive idea of liberty that typifies the best of Canada “requires Canadian political leadership to be sustained.”
Six years later, the killing of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario is a moment of reckoning for Canadians — but also for this country’s political leaders.
If it’s necessary for Canadians to reflect on themselves and their country, it’s equally necessary for politicians to consider what they could have done better in the past and what more they could do in the future.
In 2017, there was Motion 103. Tabled by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, it asked the House of Commons to condemn Islamophobia and endorse a study of how the federal government could better combat racism and discrimination. It did not pass quietly or easily. Eighty-six Conservative MPs — including current party leader Erin O’Toole — voted against it.
O’Toole’s first response to the attack in London this week described it as an “Islamophobic act of terror.” He used the word “Islamophobia” in his remarks to the House of Commons the next day.
Maybe that counts as some small measure of progress, too. But even if O’Toole appeared to turn a page this week, should politicians ever be allowed to move on so quietly?
Does he regret his vote on M-103? How does he feel now about what the previous Conservative government — which he served as a cabinet minister — said and did in regards to the niqab? What about that same government’s talk of “barbaric cultural practices?”
In the 2015 election — during which Stephen Harper suggested he would consider extending a ban on the niqab to the public service — was hardly the last word on anti-Muslim prejudice in Canada.
Trudeau put himself ahead of other leaders on the issue of the niqab when he delivered that speech in 2015. Unfortunately, it was possible then to think he had taken a political risk in so loudly criticizing the Harper government’s ban. New Democrats ended up blaming their losses in that year’s election in part on the fact that Tom Mulcair eventually was compelled to condemn the policy.
If Trudeau is ahead of his federal counterparts now on the matter of Quebec’s Bill 21, which would ban public servants in the province from wearing religious headwear or symbols, he’s not ahead by much.
O’Toole deferred to Quebec when he was asked about the so-called “secularism” law last September — another thing he might be asked about now. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has criticized the bill but has stopped short of saying an government led by him would intervene.
Trudeau has criticized the bill but is still alone among federal leaders in saying that the federal government might someday need to participate in a legal challenge against it.
That wasn’t much — but then Trudeau seemed to move backwards this week. Asked by a reporter whether he thought Bill 21 “fosters hatred and … discrimination,” the prime minister responded, “No.” (Continued: CTV)