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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

WILSON: How one leader can be subject to weeks of judgemental commentary about a foolish choice to blacken his face, while another removes his turban to pander to actual bigotry


I know I am not alone in my love for this country, which is why I am compelled to write a short series of blogs about our federal election and what it means to Canada.

Our politicians are campaigning for seats, appealing to special interest groups who operate on a members-only policy, be they Quebecois, the "black" community, LGBTQ, recent immigrants, middle-class Canadians or Indigenous people.

But who is campaigning for Canada?

Who is fighting for the fundamental principles enshrined in our Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms? These represent the foundation upon which this great nation was built.

Bill 21 is a racist piece of legislation ... after all, it’s a whole lot easier to hide a crucifix under a blouse or shirt than it is to hide a hijab, burqa or kippah for orthodox Jews and yes, a turban

It will not matter who wins the most seats if we sit quietly by and allow our country's foundation to be eroded through pandering to those who demand their interests be put before those of our nation. Our country will fall: ungovernable, shattered like a priceless vase, the shards too broken to piece together again.

Let me provide a case in point.


A turban-less NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tells Quebecers he has taken off his turban to show an openness to their distinctive character, one that permits the Quebec provincial government to pass into law Bill 21, which removes the right of individuals to wear “religious symbols” if working for the government or in a public sector job.

In other words, if Jagmeet Singh was a police officer or a teacher in the province of Quebec, he would not be permitted to go to work wearing his turban.

The NDP’s Deputy Leader Alexandre Boulerice said, when questioned on the subject, “… it’s not the end of the world and he can show his head without a turban and it’s not a big deal.”

Seriously?

Bill 21 is a racist piece of legislation designed primarily to cause devout Muslim women to remove the hijab and burqa when at work. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to hide a crucifix under a blouse or shirt than it is to hide a hijab, burqa or kippah for orthodox Jews and yes, a turban.

Bill 21 tramples over an individual’s religious freedom in the workplace and should, if subjected to a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, almost certainly fail.

But wait - Quebec in not a signatory to the Constitution and does not abide by the Charter that governs the rest of Canada, so affectionately referred to as ROC.

The bill fulfilled a campaign promise by Quebec Premier François Legault, who along with ministers said that it will affirm the “Quebecois nation’s” (a.k.a. white francophones who were among the first immigrants to Quebec) way of life alongside laws such as Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language.

Singh, who was vocal in his opposition to Bill 21 when first passed in the provincial legislature, is desperate to hold onto NDP seats in Quebec. This makes it particularly disconcerting to watch him champion rights and freedoms for Canadians in the rest of Canada, then tell Quebecers he is sensitive to their “distinct” society and would 'have their backs'.

I fail to understand how one leader can be the subject of weeks of judgemental commentary about a foolish choice to blacken his face at a costume party, while another federal leader removes his turban to pander to actual bigotry and there's barely a whisper from the religious minorities he just sold out.

Scheer has told Quebecers a federal Conservative government will not interfere in Quebec’s affairs, while Trudeau, who strongly opposed the bill, said he doesn’t feel a government, any government, should legislate what people wear, but has stopped short of saying what a federal government might try to do about it.

Soon I will post about the erosion of constitutional authorities, and following that, will
Gordon Wilson
share my thoughts about UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.


Gordon Wilson is a writer and business consultant who served as an elected MLA from 1991 -2001.  During that time, he held several cabinet posts including Minister of Forests, Aboriginal Affairs and Minister of Finance. He has consulted widely matters pertaining to the Canadian resource economy, and the Canadian Constitution. He currently lives on a small sheep farm in Powell River.

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