The Conservative Party of Canada thinks you’re stupid

Niqab talk aims to distract voters from real elections issues

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, at the Congress Centre at the Annual Meeting 2010 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 28, 2010.  Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, at the Congress Centre at the Annual Meeting 2010 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 28, 2010.
Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger

Sean Brady 
The Conservative Party of Canada wants you to think about a tip line to report “barbaric cultural practices.” Oh, and the niqab and how it’s used to oppress women. And yes, it’s more than mere coincidence that both of these issues came up at the same time and are now on the table being subtly twisted before a gazing public.

Simcoe–Grey candidate Kellie Leitch somehow kept a straight face as she stood behind a podium and read the outrageous promise of delivering an RCMP tip line to report barbaric cultural practices. The tip line prompts people to be wary of their foreign neighbours and be on the lookout for things like sexual slavery and honour killings. It’s good that the Conservative Party of Canada plans to create a tip line just for these things – clearly 911 just won’t do.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called the recent niqab debate “disgusting” and “dangerous.” In response, Jason Kenney, former minister of multiculturalism and CPC candidate, responded by saying “If anything’s dangerous, it would be legitimizing a medieval tribal custom that treats women as property rather than people.” Kenney’s concerted effort of showing concern has been effective in stirring up a reaction, but anyone reading between the lines can see the true intent of dividing people seething through. Nearly 10 years in office probably does a lot in terms of showing a party how it can exploit the people it governs. Time well spent now that they’re back on the campaign trail.

That reaction? It’s becoming more and more visible. A pregnant woman wearing a head scarf was thrown to the ground when she was attacked by two teenagers in Montreal on Sept. 29. In Toronto, another Muslim woman, clad in a niqab, claims a man attacked her in front of her two children. Amira Elghawaby, a spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told the Globe and Mail that there’s been a “huge spike” in anti-Muslim sentiment on social media.

Many have pointed to Conservative campaign advisor Lynton Crosby to explain the recent spate of divisive provocations by the party. Crosby, an experienced advisor to Commonwealth conservative parties, has a history of using “dead cat” tactics, whereby a distracting issue (the proverbial “dead cat”) is thrown down in front of everyone to keep them from talking about issues that are hurting the political chances of the party.

Another example? Perhaps Stephen Harper’s recent comments on marijuana, where he claimed that tobacco was “infinitely worse” than marijuana. Obviously, Harper overstated his party’s position on marijuana, considering tobacco kills an estimated 37,000 people every year according to Health Canada. Sure, marijuana is something they “do not want to encourage,” as Harper put it, but infinitely worse than marijuana? That kind of hyperbole is absurd and perplexing. Perhaps it was a statement produced simply out of habit by Lynton Crosby, who has lobbied in the interests of the tobacco industry in the past.

What is it, then, that the Conservative Party of Canada doesn’t want people talking about? Perhaps it’s Harper’s promise to deliver on a $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. A defense contract to deliver light armoured vehicles to a country with an abysmal human rights record, and one, in fact, that is host to many of the “barbaric cultural practices” the CPC wants you to snitch on your neighbour about. If the CPC’s battle against the niqab and the oppression of women was a genuine effort, would it really make any sense to strike such a deal with a country where women can’t marry, obtain a passport, travel or access higher education without the permission of a man? Where women aren’t allowed to drive?

If that’s not enough, Saudi Arabia is also on the verge of publicly beheading and crucifying Mohammed al-Nimr, a boy who was arrested in 2012 at age 17. His crime? He participated in anti-government protests and was arrested. Later, his confession was forced, likely by torture, and he was denied access to a lawyer. To most, this kind of behaviour would demand sanctions and condemnations. To the Conservative Party of Canada, this kind of behaviour is given only the blind eye and ignored in favour of signing a lucrative contract.

This article was originally published in The Omega student newspaper at Thompson Rivers University.  
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The Conservative Party of Canada thinks you’re stupid