Warning: Canada Is Not What You Think It Is
If you assume Canada is a welcoming haven from
the bile and divisiveness in the age of Trump,
you may be mistaken.
By Andrew Mitrovica
20, 2017 "Information
- Warning: if you believe
Canada is a
pretty, picture-postcard Islamophobia-free zone,
then I recommend you stop reading this column.
You're about to be profoundly disappointed,
shocked, or both.
Scratch its inviting surface and you will
discover quickly that, as in most other Western
not only alive and
rampant in Canada,
but it has long been a defining characteristic
of at least one of its major political parties
and large swaths of the country's corporate
The most recent evidence of this unassailable
fact has been on unsavoury display in the still
raw residue of the
massacre of six Muslim Canadians
at prayer in a
Quebec City mosque earlier this month.
Immediately after the terrorist attack,
politicians went about the ritual of decrying
the murders, while praying for the victims and
their grieving families and urging their
rally around the Muslim community
as a sign of unity and support.
Meanwhile, after a burst of attention to blunt
any criticism that it took a terrorist attack on
Muslims in Canada by a
white, reactionary male
as seriously as
attacks in Paris, Brussels or London,
much of the establishment media promptly went on
its way, as the carnage in a mosque receded
comfortably into the rearview mirror.
But difficult questions remained unanswered.
Chief among them: What to do about the
Islamophobia that was stoked into a raging
bonfire by some of the very politicians and
media that were pleading - with all the faux
solemnity they could muster - for
sceptical of the flowery rhetoric, the National
Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) - a prominent
voice for Canada's Muslim community - has
politicians of all persuasions, urging them to
take concrete steps to confront Islamophobia and
and discrimination that exists plainly in their
its sensible recommendations, the NCCM said that
more money needed to be spent to report and
gather data on hate crimes and train police;
that, following the province of Ontario's lead,
other provinces should create an anti-racism
directorate and establish a mandatory
high-school course on systemic racism and its
corrosive impact on society.
Finally, the NCCM threw its powerful backing
behind a largely symbolic, non-binding motion
sponsored by a governing Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid,
that calls on the House of Commons to
and all religious
discrimination in the aftermath of the Quebec
For context, it's important to note that after a
few hours of perfunctory debate, Canadian
parliamentarians unanimously adopted another
Liberal MP's motion in 2015
"rise of anti-Semitism around the world".
surprisingly, Khalid's motion has faced a much
more different, tumultuous and instructive fate.
than be approved swiftly and unanimously, Motion
103 has morphed into a running spectacle that
has not only dominated Canada's political agenda
but has also exposed the pus of Islamophobia
still oozing from Canadian politicians and media
that only a few weeks ago were expressing
sympathy for men murdered during evening prayers
because they were Muslims.
the hysterical charge in opposing the motion is
Canada's Conservative Party and the bevy of
candidates who are vying to lead it. All but one
of the leadership candidates have signalled
their vehement opposition to the motion,
claiming that, among other phantom horrors, it
would stifle freedom of speech and possibly act
as a precursor to the invocation of "Sharia
is, of course, lunacy. But it is lunacy that has
coursed its malevolent way through the core of
the Conservative Party for a long time and not,
as some have suggested, emerged only lately from
the swamp of Islamophobia to take up residence
at the party's radical "fringes".
Harper not only stocked his cabinet
with ministers who shared his
embrace of what amounted to hate
politics, but also plucked them from
obscurity, gave them a national
profile, all the while defending and
This is a revisionist lie. Former Conservative
spent much of his tenure fuelling and satisfying
the not-so-latent Islamophobia that was
politically appealing to his legion of
supporters by making the niqab a racist
dog-whistle and lauding "old-stock Canadians".
By the way, the NCCM
has sued Harper
and his former spokesman for suggesting that the
respected advocacy group had "documented ties to
a terrorist organisation such as
not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who
shared his embrace of what amounted to hate
politics, but also plucked them from obscurity,
gave them a national profile, all the while
defending and championing them.
Perhaps Harper's signature
legacy in this
sorry regard was first encouraging, and then
promoting, the political career of Kellie Leitch
- who, in turn, repaid her patron's largesse
with unrivalled zealotry and loyalty.
During last year's election campaign, Leitch
fronted the unveiling of a Harper-approved "tip
reporting so-called "barbaric cultural
practices" - a thinly disguised, bureaucratic
euphemism for Islam.
today, as a prominent and popular Conservative
leadership candidate, Leitch keeps channelling
her former boss's odious modus operandi while
attending a "freedom rally" stuffed with avowed
Islamophobes who are convinced Motion 103 is an
Islam-inspired plot to undermine Canadians'
rights and freedoms.
great to be in a room full of severely normal
people tonight," Leitch told the adoring crowd.
"Canadian values are not fringe, and together, I
know, we are going to fight for them."
is Harper without the filter.
READ MORE: In Quebec, calls for
unity amid rising Islamophobia
Cheering her on is an equally hysterical mob of
largely right-wing journalists who have pounced
on Khalid and her motion, chomping at the bit of
Islamophobia while insisting, unconvincingly,
that their objections to Motion 103 are
motivated solely by their oh-so-sincere concern
that it would grant one religion "special
status" over all others.
Khalid put an emphatic lie to this transparently
spurious reasoning after rising in the House of
to read out a
sampling of the relentless torrent of hate,
death threats and Islamophobia she has endured
in the days since proffering her motion.
been called a "terrorist" and a "camel humping"
"scumbag" who should be shot by a "Canadian
patriot" or deported "like a disgusting piece of
trash." She has advised her staff not to answer
the phone and to lock the office door behind
Undeterred, Khalid rightly excoriated the
remnants of Harper's Conservative caucus for its
"cynical, divisive tactics … to try to start a
fake frenzy around the word Islamophobia,
instead of tackling the issue at hand."
So, the next time you're inclined to praise or
consider moving to Canada
because it's allegedly a
welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness
in the age of Donald Trump, it might be best to
remember these obscenities before you act on
Mitrovica is an award-winning investigative
reporter and journalism instructor.