Saturday, June 19, 2021

June 16 2021

Actions must match words in federal leadership

Canadians may be confused when they see government leaders say one thing and do or say something quite the opposite. This troubling reality is with us today, in two areas of urgent concern for Canadians.

Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are still reeling from the recent news of 215 unmarked graves of Indigenous students being found at the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. Unmarked graves at other former residential schools for Indigenous students have been found since and, sadly, many more are expected.

The federal Liberals joined with other parties in expressing their deep sorrow at the news. They committed help for impacted Indigenous communities, both in dealing with their grief and finding other hidden burial sites.

Yet, on June 14, the federal government was back in federal court, fighting a Human Rights Tribunal decision that orders Canada to compensate First Nations children for harms they suffered as a result of government discrimination. The human rights complaint against the government was filed in 2007, alleging Canada discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding child-welfare and other social services.

The federal government agrees that these children are owed compensation, but it is arguing against the tribunal’s order for a maximum of $40,000 for each victim or their family.

With Canadians learning more about the mistreatment of Indigenous people by the federal government, this court case is attracting increased public scrutiny. People are questioning their MPs. And it is becoming increasingly clear that this court fight puts the government on the wrong side of history.

After 14 years, it’s time for the government to stop fighting the Human Rights Tribunal’s decision.

Another tragic issue capturing Canadians’ attention these days is Islamophobia, following the horrific killing of a Muslim family in London, Ont., because of their faith. And while all federal leaders are quick to condemn such a hate crime and the broader issue of Islamophobia in society, they seem to draw the line at committing to fight against Quebec’s Bill 21.

This provincial legislation bans some public service workers, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols while on the job. That means it disproportionately targets Muslim women who wear the hijab or niqab, treating them as second-class citizens.

Prime Minister Trudeau says he disagrees with the bill, but that it is up to Quebecers to challenge it in court, if they wish. In response to a recent question, he said he doesn’t think the bill fosters hatred and discrimination.

We disagree, as do many Canadians.

When federal leaders pledge to fight discrimination in Canada, it must include taking a stand against Bill 21.

Canadians would like to have confidence in the words of our political leaders. That means actions must reflect those words. We aren’t there yet.