Mr. Harper’s Veiled Threats

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.

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3 comments

  1. Unless I am mistaken, once people have fulfilled the citizenship requirements (e.g. stayed in the country for a specified length of time, passed the citizenship test, filled in an application, paid the fees), they can even skip the oath taking ceremony and still receive their citizenship papers in the mail.

    If I am correct, the PM is actually misleading Canadians as to the importance of the oath taking ceremony. It is even likely that he did so knowing fully well that most Canadians would be so ignorant as not to know that they were being misled. Just as he did with his claim that coalitions were illegitimate or that losers do not get to form coalitions.

    It is certainly ironical that Tim Uppal, the Cons MP, would nod his head in the background in apparent agreement when Harper announced how offended he was that the woman did not remove her niqab. Uppal, whose facial features are at least half covered by his turban and his facial hairs, should have worried that he and his fellow Sikhs would be the next if Harper ever thought that he could win a few more votes from his bigoted supporters. Recall all the ruckus a few people had made about Sikhs being allowed to wear their turbans in the RCMP (they now are).

    As they say …. first they came for the Socialists …. or in the Canadian context, first they picked on the niqabs and the hijabs (remember Chris Alexander’s hijab remarks?) …. Uppal should worry who would speak out for him and his fellow Sikhs when they come for the turbans, eh? Lol

  2. He also has another non-problem to solve before the election: the sick-leave provisions of the federal public service. By insisting on a new and unacceptable regime in which public servants would lose much of their sick-leave allotment he is hoping to force a strike, which he can then declare illegal to the cheers of his Tims n’ Hockey crowd.

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