What do you call a solution without a problem? If you’re Stephen Harper, you call it an election strategy.
The Conservative government has been proposing solutions in desperate need of problems. That they do so at all, and the manner in which they do is ironically a big problem.
Last week was their announcement that for the most heinous of Canada’s criminals life will mean life. The marauding hordes of convicted murders currently wreaking havoc on the population will never again see the light of day thanks to Stephen “I’d hang ’em high if I could” Harper.
The problem is this manic band of mayhem doesn’t exist. The worst of the worst criminals currently locked up will stay that way, thanks to the Dangerous Offender Designation. The Paul Bernardos and Russell Williams of this world will never again draw free air. The only way the sun will shine on them when they leave prison is with a see through coffin.
Secondly, the recidivism rate for murderers in Canada is actually quite low. Strict parole conditions, and what amounts to a lifetime of adhering to them is likely why. Meaning those murderers who are deemed fit to walk among us again are of very little threat either.
In fact, Stephen Harper’s “life without hope” plan not only won’t solve any problems there’s an excellent chance it will cause new ones. Problems like prisoners posing a threat to corrections staff knowing parole is impossible. Or violent criminals killing more people to avoid arrest, because after the first one what does it matter?
At the very least it will cause problems for this government. The legal issues with this legislation almost guarantee a Charter Challenge, and the government being handed another loss from the Supreme Court.
Canada’s Justice League of Jurisprudence also brings up the next non existent problem Stephen Harper would like to solve. In a decision the government has said it will appeal, the court ruled banning people from wearing the Niqab during a citizenship oath is unconstitutional. They were right to do so.
Unlike with passports, drivers licenses, or in a court of law there are no compelling security reasons present that would override someone’s freedoms of expression. Likely because impersonating someone else to take the oath is of no benefit at all. If I obscure my face, and take the oath for someone who has already gone through the rest of the citizenship process what have I gained?
Simply taking the oath doesn’t magically confer citizenship on someone who hasn’t navigated the channels to obtain all the necessary documentation. So if the aim of banning the Niqab isn’t to stop a rash of oath taking impersonators, what is it? What problem is solved? The answer is there isn’t one.
The sight of a woman in a Niqab taking the citizenship oath offends some people. In and of itself that’s not actually a problem. As people are free to express themselves and their cultural identity, others are free to be offended by it. If their own personal offense is the extent to which their intolerance manifests itself so be it. However, to take away the right of expression solely because it offends people is most certainly a problem. Limiting the right of expression is reserved for hate speech, threats and the like. Not matters of personal taste.
If I wore a kilt to swear the oath, I’d be expressing my cultural heritage and I doubt Stephen Harper would have anything to say about it. As Scots are loved the world over, there are probably not a lot of political points to be gained leading an Anti-Tartan brigade. Sadly this is not the case with Muslims.
It is possible both the issues of banning the Niqab, and life without hope do solve two problems. For one, they are the sort of fear based wedge issues which can energize the Conservatives’ base. Also, in an election year both can shift Canadians’ focus away from Mr. Harper’s dismal handling of our economy. Those are the Prime Minister’s problems though, not ours.
When it comes to instilling fear in Canadians, playing to prejudice, and arbitrarily removing people’s rights Canadians should tell the Prime Minister….that’s not how we do things here.