UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at a June 22 news conference in Ottawa. Photo by Art Babych.

A peaceable kingdom?

Celebrate Canadian democracy. But let’s not be complacent.

By Dennis Gruending


As MPs headed back to their constituencies for the summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a news conference in late June. Before submitting to questions from journalists, Trudeau talked about three promises kept since the Liberals won power in October 2015. They had, he said, delivered on a tax cut for middle-class Canadians and modified the Canada Child Benefit to support families. They also promised to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan for future retirees.

My temptation was to look for weaknesses in Trudeau’s presentation. They exist, of course, but on that day, I felt grateful to be living in a peaceable kingdom with a healthy, functioning democracy. For one thing, the prime minister actually met with journalists and submitted himself graciously to the questions that reporters ask on our behalf. Contrast that to the rant by visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in June, when a Canadian journalist asked him about human rights in China. Conversely, journalists in China wouldn’t dare to ask such questions, and in Russia, the best investigative reporters — not to mention opposition politicians — risk assassination.

At his recent news conference, Trudeau didn’t even mention that Canada has accepted 25,000 Syrian refugees, nor did anyone ask him a question about it. In the U.S., however, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, promises to ban entry to Muslims. In the U.K., the recent Brexit campaign featured anti-refugee rhetoric and recklessly provocative advertisements. Jo Cox, a bright young Labour MP who was both sympathetic to refugees and a supporter of Britain’s continued membership in the European Union, was murdered on a street in her constituency. The assailant may well have been influenced by the coarse rhetoric that accompanied the Brexit campaign. In fact, racist incidents have been on the rise since the Brexit referendum. 

Trudeau also didn’t mention that half of his cabinet ministers are women. In the U.S., however, Trump has gone out of his way to denigrate women, referring publicly to some as “fat pigs,” “dogs” and “disgusting animals.” There are, of course, some men in every society who are misogynists, but it’s distressing when one of them becomes a candidate for the U.S. presidency.

Still, Trump’s comments about women are no more outrageous than comments — including death threats — made on social media about Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (She has provided for gender parity in the cabinet, too.). Many of these remarks are being made by supporters of the Wildrose Party, and some MLAs appear to be encouraging those excesses.

The attempt to scapegoat refugees and Muslims isn’t confined to the Brexit campaign either. You’ll remember that in the 2015 federal election, the Conservative manufactured a needless and mean-spirited controversy over Muslim women who wear the niqab. Although the Conservatives lost the election, many people supported them on that very issue.

So, certainly, Canadians have a political culture that they can cherish. But as the harassment of Notley and Conservative campaigning prove, we have no reason to be complacent.


Author's photo
Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based author, blogger and a former Member of Parliament. His work will appear on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. His Pulpit and Politics blog can be found at www.dennisgruending.ca.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

The test of a lifetime

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Dearest Ones

by Observer Staff

Geneticist, activist and broadcaster David Suzuki offers words of wisdom to his grandchildren — and younger generations

Promotional Image

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

World

February 2017

Many faces, one humanity

by Wade Davis

The words and photographs of the Canadian author and explorer capture the richness — and fragility — of global cultures and rituals

Faith

January 2017

Presbytery turns down bid to halt Vosper hearing

by Mike Milne

World

February 2017

Many faces, one humanity

by Wade Davis

The words and photographs of the Canadian author and explorer capture the richness — and fragility — of global cultures and rituals

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Faith

March 2016

The Walrus Talks Spirituality

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image