Toronto
3 min

Last call at the bar

At the bar (legal or otherwise)

Credit: Xtra files

A rabbi, a priest and Stephen Harper walk into a bar…. Talk about a bad joke.



The dishonourable leader of Her Majesty’s opposition brought down on his head a rainbow of crap following his speech in Parliament for the second reading of the same-sex civil marriage bill, C-38, back in February.



Harper attempted to show the “staggering hypocrisy” of the Liberal Party portraying itself as the defender of civil rights by listing some of the country’s worst rights abuses – from the internment of Japanese Canadians to the horrifically small number of Jewish refugees allowed into the country prior to and during World War II – events occurring when Liberals were in power federally.



He then argued that minorities should vote for the Conservatives, especially since same-sex marriage was an assault on multicultural communities. It was reported that Harper wrote the 50-minute speech by himself, with a little research help.



What a stupid bigot.



Only Harper could claim that denying equal rights to a minority was standing up for the rights of minorities. Or that all us people of colour think alike on contentious issues. (Remember this was the same smarty-pants who last year sent out congratulations to the Ontario Federation Of Indian Friendship Centres on the anniversary of India Republic Day.)



Harper conveniently ignored the internment of German and Ukrainians in World War I under a Conservative federal government, or that the Orders In Council keeping all but Brits and Yanks out of the country in the 1930s and ’40s, were drawn up in 1930 and ’31 by a Conservative cabinet. Or how about the provincial Tories in Saskatchewan who brought down a Liberal administration in 1929 through an informal alliance with the Ku Klux Klan?



I could go on, but I don’t want to play the same clumsy game that Harper plays. The point is not to contrast Tory racism and xenophobia with Liberal varieties. The point is how racism, bigotry and discrimination cut across all political parties and social divisions. That’s why we need the Charter, to keep rights out of the purview of parliaments, majorities and mobs.



An impressive array of speakers from community organizations were appalled at Harper’s patronizing and craven attempt at playing politics with people’s rights (see the next item).



Echoing a number of community leaders, Rizwana Jafri, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, called for Muslims to stand in solidarity with gay men and lesbians and to defend the Charter, a crucial bulwark against the “discrimination that so many [Muslims] face on a daily basis.”



Case in point: Deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay (who also doesn’t support Bill C-38) basically labeled all immigrants second-class citizens when he called for Fateh Kamel to be stripped of his Canadian citizenship. Yes, the man is a convicted terrorist. But he is a Canadian. His rights can’t be contingent on how repellent we find him or his actions. Such cavalier attitudes lead to people like Maher Arar being whisked away to be tortured elsewhere just on the suspicion of wrongdoing.



Maybe we should agree with MacKay. Let’s say if we find someone’s actions or views repugnant and contrary to Canadian ideals, we can trump up some reason to send them back to where they came from. So what if it’s illegal or unconstitutional? That doesn’t seem to stop our Conservative legislators-in-waiting.



Let’s deport MacKay back to Scotland. Sure, he comes from a proud, generations-old Nova Scotia family, but why should that make a difference? The MacKays were immigrants once and Peter is repellent now. Send him back to where he came from and let the porridge-eaters deal with him.



And let’s send Harper back, too, to… Oakville? Let’s see how he fairs after a few days suffering under the Brampton Claw.



I’m outraged not because I’m a person of colour (my mixed heritage includes porridge-eaters, if you want to know) but because I’m a student of history. I wouldn’t take a free beer from the likes of Harper and his intolerant cohorts. As a Canadian, that’s saying something.



* Gordon Bowness is Xtra’s arts and entertainment editor.