Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Faith-based school flap glazes over bigger identity issue

A column that appeared in the Oct. 15 edition of The Hinton Parklander:

Being a political junkie as I am, I’ve spent an unacceptable portion of my free time recently keeping track of the Ontario election, primarily because of the odd campaign that came about there.
PC leader John Tory’s plan to extend public funding to private religious schools became the leading issue in the campaign, which is odd because Canadian tradition holds that the citizenry cares little about religious issues aside from when they feel threatened by this or that right-wing group gaining power (ask Stockwell Day about a certain purple dinosaur).
Tory was sacrificed at the alter of what has come to be known as the “reasonable accommodation” debate, or how much mainstream society should change to fit non-mainstream ideas, and visa-versa.
Ontarians voted on the issue with their feet by running away from Tory’s campaign in droves. He failed to even win a seat running against, ironically, the Liberal’s education minister.

A similar sentiment in Quebec where Mario Dumont’s won a major electoral breakthrough by becoming the poster boy for social intolerance.
This is all backwards and counterproductive in an era where we are trying to fight intercultural intolerance that breeds blind hatred, and terrorism from that.
Prior to 9/11, Canada was coming to be seen as a model by many countries for our seemingly illogical ability to allow different religious and ethnic groups to do as they wished and not bomb each other.
Canadians’ stay out of the bedroom and out of the temple approach gave a variety of groups space to practice without feeling threatened, and returned to us with drastically lower rates of fundamentalist manifestation than our neighbour to the south. Yet, as in a recent case when a small town felt the urge to pass an anti-stoning ordinance, some seem willing to throw away a brilliantly successful tradition to satisfy ignorant fears.
Government has a role to play in beating back the anti-minority sentiment building in this country. Sadly, the Liberals in Ontario and the Action democratique du Quebec, a conservative, nationalist and populist provincial political party in Quebec, have now scored political points by playing up the fears of an electorate that should, but unfortunately does not, see past an illegitimate fear of different world views in our society.
Letting the majority rule on minority rights is an abomination and like assigning the fox to watch the hens. It is an assault against the spirit of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects every single individual’s rights in this country.
Sacrifice it, lest you be in the minority some day.
Governments who sell to populist fears will be beholden to them for years to come, stripped of their ability to stand up for minority rights as their newly-formed political bases threaten to drop them as they did John Tory.

No comments: