Friday, October 9, 2015

An Open Letter to Stephen Harper About the Politics of Division

Thanks again to Montreal Simon, I came across this open letter which was being sent to Stephen Harper regarding the tactics being used by the Conservative Party of Canada in the current election cycle.  Please note that I have not copied the entire letter which is available for you to read here.

"We are a diverse group of academics with different political views and different political allegiances. We are united by a common interest in the integrity of democratic processes and a concern about the ugly and dangerous turn we have recently witnessed in the election campaign. In democratic electoral politics there is an ethical line that distinguishes spirited partisan strategy from cynical tactics that betray the values of mutual respect and toleration that lie at the heart of civil democratic discourse. Honourable politicians do not cross that line even when they think doing so will be politically advantageous. Disreputable politicians ignore the line when they find it convenient to do so.

The Conservative Party under Stephen Harper has already come perilously close to this line by suggesting that religion is an appropriate basis to select refugees and by fanning fears of terrorism as a pretext for revoking citizenship from some Canadians. Distinguishing ‘old-stock’ Canadians from new ones was also divisive and problematic. Increasingly, the Conservatives seem to have been opting for a particularly nasty form of “wedge politics”.

However, by injecting the inflammatory rhetoric of ‘barbaric cultural practices’ into the current campaign, the Conservative Party has flagrantly crossed the line. The repeated use of this phrase along with a proposed tip line to root out undesirables are cynically calculated to distract and divide citizens by insinuating that some law abiding and peaceful members of the community are freedom-hating barbarians who threaten Canadian society. The Conservatives know that Canada faces no such threat and that the vast majority of citizens, irrespective of their religious commitments or cultural backgrounds, embrace the basic rights and liberties upon which our democracy is based. By conjuring up a phantom menace to the country and implying that some immigrants and religious minorities are enemies, the Conservatives hope to pit Canadians against one another. Like many sophisticated forms of vicious propaganda, the invocation of barbarism is meant to create fear and anxiety rather than to identify a real problem."

The letter goes on to note that the Conservatives have shown contempt for the politics of mutual respect for those who are different in their religious or cultural practices, bringing shame to Canadian political theatre.  It also notes that tolerance of "the other" is an important part of debate and discussion over religious, cultural and linguistic pluralism.

The letter was signed by 587 Canadian academics from a wide selection of academic backgrounds and post-secondary educational institutions and was slated to appear in Canadian newspapers on October 9, 2015.

With the niqab being used as an issue by the Harper campaign to further divide Canadians, most particularly Quebec, it has become quite apparent that the Conservative Party is quite fond of using the politics of division to win an election at any cost.

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