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Liberal sleight of hand

Thomas McKechnie

March 12, 2016

The Liberal Party of Canada is adept at sleight of hand. Two recent announcements from Canada’s government cut that into clear relief.

The first was an announcement that Justin Trudeau would be the first sitting Prime Minister to march in Toronto’s Pride Parade. The second was the choice to stand united with the Conservative Party in their denouncement of the United Church of Canada and the Quakers support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid.

The first is a noble gesture, it’s important for the government of a country to support marginalized people. The second is an egregious affront to the Palestinian people and those who support them. The release of the two actions is a political strategy aimed at doing something that costs little political capital in order to do something that would certainly cost a lot more. This is made even more problematic by the fact that Trudeau will be marching with LGBT Syrian refugees—who faced extra hurdles when attempting to come to Canada due to the Liberals’ policy requiring extra screening for unmarried male refugees.

Bill C-51

There is similar sleight of hand when it comes to Bill C-51. There was mass mobilization against it in numerous cities and a public outcry that included experts in national security, civil liberties and former Prime Ministers. The Liberal Party voted in favour of this bill and promised to “reform” it, but this is just another example of sleight of hand.

Removing the “problematic” aspects of Bill C-51 would require scrapping the Bill entirely. Bill C-51 is based on increasing the repressive powers of the state—from spying to detention. It’s based on broadening the definition of “terrorism” to criminalize land defenders and whip up Islamophobia, in order to promote pipelines and war.

The Liberals support these policies and therefore support Bill C-51, but are trying different tactics. Harper refused to admit any criticism of the Bill, sparking huge mobilizations. The Liberals and are trying to use committees and hearings to absorb criticism of the Bill without scrapping it—with a vague timeline that extends Bill C-51 in its current form, normalizing it so that it can withstand public pressure.

We must remain active in our communities as the hearings on Bill C-51 continue—demanding it be scrapped, supporting communities most affected by the Bill and connecting the Bill to the domestic and foreign policies it promotes. We must continue raising awareness of the bill and it’s dangers and we must ensure that people see beyond Prime Minister Trudeau’s personal appeal into the threat his government represents to people across the country.

Join conference Ideas for Real Change: Marxism 2016 April 22-23 in Toronto, including the panel “Racism, the security state and Bill C-51

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