Raisa Patel, Toronto Star, August 17, 2021
Discrimination against visible and religious minorities in Canada has been hotly debated during the year leading up to this summer’s federal election, but the issue gets scant mention in the campaign platform released by the Conservative party this week.
The words “racism” and “antisemitism” do not appear anywhere in the party’s 160-page policy platform, which largely focuses on the fallout and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor are there any references to Black Canadians.
And in the aftermath of the deadly June attack targeting a Muslim family in London, Ont. — which saw Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole calling for “urgent action” to support Canadian Muslims — the term “Islamophobia” is missing, too.
The omissions are somewhat at odds with the opening notes of the platform, in which O’Toole writes that it is “time for Conservatives to take inequality seriously, because that’s becoming more of a problem in our country,” and says that Canada is a society where “everyone can fulfil his or her potential.”
It also doesn’t address last year’s nationwide call for racial justice, sparked by a reckoning over police brutality targeting Black and Indigenous people.
Instead, the document tackles discrimination and bridge-building through the lens of international human rights and foreign policy, rather than grappling with its existence in Canada.
Among a handful of proposals, the Conservatives would establish an Office of Religious Freedom and Conscience that advises cabinet ministers “on threats to international security, engages in diplomacy to religious communities, and informs Canadian international development programs to promote freedom, pluralism, religious coexistence and tolerance.”
On the other hand, the New Democrats — the only other major federal party to release its policy promises — are running on a platform that has dedicated an entire plank to confronting racism and other forms of discrimination, though the details are vague.