For anyone following the Reform movement from its inception to it's new transformation under the Conservative Party of Canada banner, hearing them describe themselves as friends of immigrants, is both amusing and chilling.
In the early 1990's, when it was discovered that Neo-Nazis had infiltrated the Party, those ousted claimed not to understand the problem. They had been drawn to Reform because of their anti-immigration policies. According to Al Overfield of the Heritage Front: "The attraction of Reform for Overfield and like-minded persons, he said was that it was strictly white bread, 100 percent white Canadians, really anti-immigration; there was really no difference between those people and them [Heritage Front]."
When Bill Dunphy of the Toronto Sun exposed the fact that Heritage Front leader Wolfgang Droege and four other Heritage Front activists had memberships in Toronto area Reform Party riding associations, Preston Manning expelled the group.
"The expulsion enraged the Heritage Front, which saw the Reform Party's policies as very similar to, if not indistinguishable from, its own. How could a party that went on record opposing immigration policies that "radically alter" Canada's ethnic make-up turn around and shun a group like the Heritage Front, Droege asked, when the Heritage Front supports the very same approach? Privately, spokesmen for B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress admitted that Droege had a good point." (1)I'm not suggesting that Harper or his Reform Party were neo-Nazis, but their stance on immigration drew in the wrong kind of people and helped to inflame hatred.
So I find it rather curious that the party is running ads that so many Canadians are finding offensive.
What Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe oppose is the incarceration of refugees for up to a year, including women and children.
the National Council of Canadian Tamils has strongly criticized the Conservative ad and demanded it be pulled off the air. "This election ad is xenophobic and borders on racism," said Krisna Saravanamuttu, a council spokesman. It appeals to the "worst instincts of Canadians to score political points and votes."And as Bill Tieleman says of the mock ballot employed by the Conservatives in their ads:
"It is reminiscent of the political rhetoric used to turn back Sikhs and Hindus on board the Kamagata Maru in 1914, and Jewish refugees on board the MS St. Louis fleeing persecution in 1939," Saravanamuttu said. "In these cases, refugees fleeing persecution were labelled 'criminals' and vilified by politicians appealing to the worst instincts of Canadians to score political points and votes."
... shows three items with checkmarks -- "Strong leadership" and "Lower taxes" (but no mention of Harper and Campbell imposing the Harmonized Sales Tax increase on B.C.), followed by "Tough on human smuggling. Huh? Is that Canada's third most important issue in this election?Some things never change. The Conservatives are tapping into the worst of human nature.
The pleasant female voiceover explains that Harper has "taken action to protect our borders -- not from those who are welcome but from human smugglers who take advantage of our generosity." The Conservative ad also shows film of a ship being taken into custody by the Canadian navy. Oh, I see. It's coded language only true Tories understand. But let's unscramble the message: "Conservatives will keep refugees on boats out of Canada."
It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure this one out. Last August a ship called the MV Sun Sea carrying 492 Sri Lankans of Tamil origin claiming refugee status after that country's civil war arrived off the B.C. coast. They were detained and questioned. About 39 remain in custody. The year before another ship carrying 76 Tamil passengers, the Ocean Lady, entered B.C. waters. Let's also make a wild guess. The Conservatives have noticed that these refugee claimants were not, shall we say, Scandinavian-looking.
Harsha Walia writes in the Vancouver Sun: Federal Elections and Canada's Immigration Policy, reminding us of Kenney's abysmal record on immigration:
A recent United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report indicates that the number of asylum applications to Canada has fallen 30 per cent. The number of refugees granted permanent residence dropped by 25% under Jason Kenney; in fact according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s own 2009 report, the number of refugees who had their asylum claims approved dropped by 56% in 2008 from 2005. In 2010, there were 8,466 Pre-Removal Risk Assessment applications made by asylum-seekers facing removal orders. Only 89 were approved.Instead of immigration and providing refugee status, Kenney has been promoting the migrant worker system. In fact during the three years when Canada saw massive unemployment, Kenney allowed record numbers of migrant workers into the job market.
If we reward this party with another mandate, it means that we accept this new direction and Harper's transformation of Canada will be complete.
Are we really prepared for this?
On May 2, vote and vote wisely.
1. Web of Hate: Inside Canada's Far Right Network, By: Warren Kinsella, Harper Collins, 1994, ISBN: 0-00-255074-1, Pg. 243-44