OTTAWA – POLITICS – The Conservative government talks a good game on freedom, but their words don’t match their record.
Their instincts are now to be suspicious of people who do not share their beliefs, to harden divisions with people whose views differ from their own. This is an extension of Stephen Harper’s politics of fear and division.
They have accused two leaders of the NDP of sympathizing with terrorists, acclaimed human rights activist and former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler of anti-Semitism, and declared that “you’re either with us, or you’re with the child pornographers.”
Such rhetoric might work politically in the short term, but it’s corrosive over time. It stokes anxiety and foments fear. That’s not how we do things in Canada.
While we’ve had dark moments in our history—like the internment of Ukrainians, Japanese and Italian Canadians during the First and Second World Wars—we have had thousands more hopeful, open moments—like the Underground Railroad or the Multiculturalism Act—that have come to define who are as a country.
Unlike many others, we have built our country around shared values and our core value is a very Canadian idea of liberty: inclusion, and it is deeply woven into our public institutions. From the protection of both official languages to the acceptance of refugees fleeing persecution, Canadian inclusiveness should be celebrated.
In this country we understand that people are defined both by the things that unite and distinguish us from one another.
Yet despite these traditions, it will take political leadership to sustain liberty in Canada.
Recently we have seen our Prime Minister telling women what they can and cannot wear on their head at public ceremonies. That ought not to be his business. Whatever happened to disagreeing about someone’s choices, but defending their right to make them?
The Prime Minister ought never blur the line between a real security threat and simple prejudice. Fear is a dangerous thing. Once it is sanctioned by the state, there is no telling where it might lead.
We must reject Mr. Harper’s politics of fear. Canada is strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Our leaders must work to bring Canadians together, not divide them against one another.
Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada