This dreary and unduly lengthy election campaign has turned dark and dangerous. That the Prime Minister of Canada is stoking the flames of xenophobia (with his anti-niqab antics, two-tiered citizenship, and a snitch line against “barbaric practices”) has made me so down-hearted that I can barely sleep at night. It has literally made me sick, and sick at heart, a feeling I share with so many of my friends and associates.
I thought Canada was beyond that. In the past, the state and our prominent public institutions (including our churches, universities, hospitals, and workplaces) felt no embarrassment practicing overt discrimination against particular groups or railing against the perceived evils of vulnerable minorities. Once it was the Catholics, the Irish, the Italians and the Greeks, then the Chinese, the Jews, the Japanese, blacks, gays, the Doukhobors, the Sikhs, and the Roma. Once it was women, period, then married women. Now it is women who wear the niqab, a religious practice of Wahhabism, that sect of Sunni Islam promoted by the Saudi Arabians, our trading partners, to whom Stephen Harper is more than happy to sell the military vehicles we produce.
I had thought that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enshrined as part of our Constitution in 1982, and universally recognized as the best in the world, represented our common values: a society where freedom, equality, diversity and multiculturalism would flourish and be protected under the law. Instead, we have an incumbent prime minister whose track record has been to enact one law after another, one policy after another, obviously in breach of the Charter. When the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately overturns his unconstitutional laws, he maligns the courts as “unrepresentative of the people.” I ask you, who is representative of the people? A prime minister who seeks re-election promoting divisiveness and fear? Or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which all the other leaders know in their bones cannot, and should not, be perverted for partisan advantage?
That is my last word on this federal election campaign. I am voting in the advance poll on Friday and then closing my ears and eyes to all the superfluous advertising until election day. Maybe we should all do the same.
For all the sound and fury of the federal election, ordinary life in Toronto goes on in peace and harmony. The return of school brought the Toronto International Film Festival and thousands of people into the streets and the theatres, catching glimpses of the stars, and watching free movies under the stars. I saw many films at TIFF this year, which I will write about in the weeks ahead. Late summer also brought the last of the neighbourhood festivals. One sunny weekend in late September, the Roncesvalles Polish Festival, a fall extravaganza, just east of High Park, competed for fair-goers with the Ukrainian Festival further west in Bloor West Village. The following weekend, Word on the Street drew thousands of authors, booksellers and readers lingering over the stalls and stalls of books on offer. Who says people don’t read anymore? Last Saturday night, it was Nuit Blanche, an all-night extravaganza of art installations all over the city. My younger friends were out on the town on what could well be described as an effete, super sophisticated, artistic pub crawl. It’s no wonder people love Toronto. There is so much going on, and so little time to take it all in. All a much-needed diversion from the current Canadian political scene.