Andrew Coyne, bless him, has given us plebs the all clear – we’re not really racist you see, just a bunch of nervous nellies:
The two-thirds or more of the Canadian public that polls show favour the niqab ban, for example, is rather more than a small slice of the population. I very much doubt you could rally such support for outright bigotry, and I don’t think that’s what’s going on. It’s not a hate campaign or even a fear campaign so much as a nervousness campaign. And it thrives not by appealing to intolerance, but to tolerance: not to our worst side but, perversely, to our best.
The broad mass of Canadians are not necessarily prejudiced. But they’re busy, and distracted, and yes, they’re nervous: about terrorism, certainly, but also about social cohesion and such. The politician who can appeal to their unease without seeming unkind — who can make them feel good about feeling nervous — is going places. Push it too far, however, as Marois did, and it backfires: when Quebecers were confronted with the practical implications of the ban on religious symbols, namely that thousands of observant public employees would be fired, they recoiled.
You can hear the condescension dripping off our scribe’s pen like great salty tears shed for the death of a mythical Trudeaupian ideal. Coyne is wrong of course. The two-thirds of Canadians who support the Niqab ban aren’t nervous, any more than they’re bigoted. Rather they’re fed up with being taken for soft-hearted fools.
Canada may be the most accommodating country in the world in how we accept new immigrants. We don’t make any great demands upon them, we don’t treat them as second class, we don’t make things difficult for them. An immigrant friend of mine told me that what really impressed his family when they arrived in the country, was that upon stepping onto Canadian soil they were treated as Canadians by everyone they met. The assumption was, that having come to Canada they belonged.
Having adopted a live-and-let-live attitude towards newcomers, it really irks Canadians when they choose to behave like ingrates and cut themselves off from our society. And let’s be clear, that’s what the Niqab is about, cutting yourself off, giving the appearance that you are superior to those around you, reducing them to “the other”. It’s the complete opposite of the tolerance that Canadians display to immigrants and in this context it’s akin to be spat upon. And the more the likes of Andrew Coyne deign to lecture voters on the matter, the better Harper’s poll numbers will get.
Oh and Coyne is also wrong in blaming Harper for raising this issue in the midst of an election campaign. It wasn’t the Tories that insisted on throwing this particular grenade into the midst of the campaign – it was the Federal Court of Appeals:
The three justices ruled from the bench, saying they wanted to proceed quickly so that Zunera Ishaq, the woman who initially challenged the ban, can obtain her citizenship in time to vote in the Oct. 19 federal election.
Judges, like newspaper columnists may be over-educated and thus capable of believing all sorts of foolishness, but not even a Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal could believe that making a controversial decision on an emotional subject like this would have no effect at all on the election campaign.
This was timed to paint the government in a poor a light as possible. Don’t believe me? Check out what Ms Ishaq’s lawyer had to say
One of her lawyers, Marlys Edwardh, said the Immigration Department would be contacted this week so she could attend a citizenship ceremony – accompanied by her lawyers “just in case.”
They were looking for a fight, but it hasn’t play out the way they hoped.