Patrick Brown surrenders to the Laurentian Elites:
“(It’s) important to have this pause and understand where mistakes have been made so we can go into the future with a sense of conviction that we’re on the right path. My sense, showing up to probably about 1,000 cultural events in the last year in the GTA, is that if we do not defend minority communities of every religion, of every race, then every other cultural group will say: are we next?” he told the crowd.
“I think we lost our way when we did not say that unequivocally. I think there were mistakes made, and I think we have to learn from that.”
As both his and Jason Kenney’s persistent outreach to different ethnic communities have proved, Brown added, many ethnic minorities share Conservative values. But the party went “too far” with its niqab rhetoric during the federal election campaign.
Which begs an obvious question: What is "too far" in the mind of the Ontario Tory leader?
The decision of the federal Conservatives to bring up the issue of the niqab - very late in the campaign as they were trailing the Liberals - was deeply opportunistic. As late as October 6th, Stephen Harper was musing about banning the niqab in the public service. Whatever the merits of such a policy it's hard to imagine the Prime Minister wasn't more than a little desperate to energize his base ahead the Tories' impending defeat.
The question of the niqab goes far beyond a single election and the fate of a single prime minister. Governments come and go. We have had 42 Parliaments in the history of Canada. This passing political parade is dust in the balance. What matters is the culture of the nation. What matters is whether those who live in the country we call Canada believe in the broad civic values upon which the nation was built. The question is indeed one of tolerance. Unfortunately the word tolerance has lost its meaning down the generations.
One of the Canada's national character traits is tolerance. Other nations define themselves along narrowly religious, ethnic or nationalistic lines. Canada could never have defined itself in such a way. Even in 1867 we were a polyglot nation, a composite of English, French, Scottish, Irish, Welch and the various aboriginal cultures. Our particular belief in tolerance - the tolerance what would have been understood by John A Macdonald, Wilfrid Laurier and John Diefenbaker - was a tolerance for differences of race, language and religion. It was an ideal we didn't always adhere to. Nevertheless it was our ideal. It was the ideal that motivated Robert Baldwin and Hippolyte Lafontaine to fight for responsible government in defiance of their different ethnic and religious backgrounds. It was an ideal recited almost as a catechism in the government broadcasts and newspaper editorials during both world wars. It was an ideal that our modern Laurentian Elite have comprehensively abandoned.
While Canada has tolerated differences of cultural identity, it has until quite recently never tolerated differences of fundamental values. More pavilions at Folkfest were a welcome addition to the sights, sounds and perspectives of being Canadian. It was also understood implicitly that whatever the ethnic dance or foreign tongue, your loyalty was to Canada. The Canada to which they pledged allegiance was a parliamentary democracy "with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom." It was nation in which freedom was our nationality, a freedom understood to rest upon the natural rights of the individual and a market based economy. It was nation to which freedom of speech, the right to bear arms and the right to due process upon traditional British lines was taken for granted. A nation that was the direct product of a thousand years of more or less peaceful constitutional development.
This was a history, these were the values imparted in school rooms across the country for more than a century. Yes that Canada was a more bigoted place than the Canada of today. So was every other place on earth. In the dark annals of racial discrimination Canada merits at worst a passing mention. Today in much of the developing world crimes far greater in extent and severity are committed daily than ever occurred in the whole of Canadian history. Those who seek to discredit our past by selective recollection of our sins are ignoring the authentic identity of Canada.
This bring us back to the niqab. I don't believe that it is proper function of the government to dictate the dress and peaceful conduct of private citizens. I do believe that citizens of a free nation have a right to denounce threats to our freedom, whether they be from an overweening government or from a pernicious systems of belief. The niqab is not a charming cultural custom, a manner of dress little different in substance from a Ukrainian vyshyvanka or Indian sari. It is a statement of values. To tolerate the niqab is not to express tolerance for a comparatively trivial difference of custom, it is to tolerate a profound rejection of the values of a free society. It is a cultural declaration of war on the dignity and integrity of the individual that rests at the heart of Canadian identity.
The federal Conservatives didn't go "too far" in the last election. Instead they failed utterly to identify the essential issue posed by the niqab. Patrick Brown would remedy their failure by grovelling toward the gods of the political correctness. Appeasing your enemies is a poor way to win an election. It's an excellent way to surrender a national culture.