rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Racism in the Canadian election: Suppressing our better angels

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

Syrian refugees cross from Hungary into Austria on their way to Germany in Septe

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

The main issue in the Canadian election was supposed to be who could best manage the economy. Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims that it's he, and warns that other political parties will run deficits and raise taxes. Of course, Harper ran six deficits in a row. Apparently, he runs good deficits, but it would be irresponsible for others to do the same.

The Conservatives, however, have also introduced a much darker anti-Muslim dimension into the campaign. For them, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees in Europe this summer and fall was opportune. While many Canadians were meeting in city halls and churches to discuss how to assist in the humanitarian crisis, the Conservatives used the same crisis to spread fear.

Simply put, Harper played on fears about terrorism, claiming that other political parties would airlift refugees to Canada from camps in a volatile zone. Among those people, he warned, there could well be terrorists who want to harm Canada. This was a straw man monologue because no other political leaders suggested an air lift of undocumented people. They were asking, however, why it takes years for the Canadian government to process refugees lingering in the camps when there are Canadian sponsoring groups who want to receive them.

Harper also indicated that Canada will select its refugees from among persecuted minorities. That's code language that means Canada will accept Christians — and perhaps some Yazidis — but not Muslims. Tragically, it's true that Christians are being persecuted in the region, but the vast majority of victims and refugees continue to be Muslims.

In addition, the Conservatives have deliberately stirred up controversy over a Federal Court ruling that said it is against the law for the government to ban women from wearing the niqab, which is a facial scarf, at citizenship ceremonies. The prime minister and former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney are rarely accused of being feminists but in this case, they argue that women who wear the niqab are oppressed.

Then there's the recent news conference featuring ministers Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch. The two promised that if re-elected, the Conservatives will set up a telephone snitch line so that people can report to the RCMP any "barbaric cultural practices" that they might notice, including polygamy, forcing children into arranged marriages and honour killings. Without question, this is a neighbourhood watch with an Iron Curtain feel to it. CBC reporter Neil Macdonald writes that the Conservatives are attempting to implant in the public mind the harshest interpretations of fundamentalist Islam.

More recently, Harper has moved even farther into inciting division, saying that his government would also consider banning public servants from wearing the niqab, even though virtually none of them do!

Earlier generations of parliamentarians stoked fears against South Asians, slapped a head tax on Chinese immigrants, interned Japanese and Ukrainian Canadians, and fueled prejudice against Indigenous peoples. It was left to politicians in succeeding generations to apologize for the bigoted actions of their predecessors.     

In 1861, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln expressed the fond hope that Americans would be led by the "better angels of [our] nature." That's also a fitting hope for Canada's election campaign in 2015.

This piece was published by the United Church Observer on October 8, 2015.  

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.