A time for Canadian pride but also vigilance: Harper

So we really hate Donald Trump. According to Pew Research, we are a nation of anti-Trumpers.

Our virtues are sung on the front page of the New York Times and, worldwide, our diversity, tolerance and openness to new arrivals has given many a case of the Canada warm and fuzzies.

But before we revert to our default position of smugness and before we get too carried away with our media reviews, perhaps we should take a hard look inward as (some of us) celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

I say some of us, of course, because many Indigenous Canadians see nothing to celebrate and that position must be respected.

We can dismiss the Mississauga racist rant in the health clinic, or the Alberta burning of a pride flag, or tiny anti-Muslim protests as isolated events that do not tell us who we are, but if you want to dismiss them, ignore them at your peril.

We should be looking at Indigenous complaints against the police in Thunder Bay or the disproportionate police interaction with Blacks and Indigenous youth in our cities.

We should study Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard’s words when he said, in the wake of the stabbing of a Michigan police officer by a Montreal man, “you cannot disconnect this type of event, terrorism, from Islam in general.’’

And we should give further thought to a Statistics Canada report on hate crimes released earlier this month which showed a 60 per cent jump in police-reported hate crimes against Muslims in 2015. Hate crimes are underreported and those numbers are two years old and no one thinks it has gotten better since 2015.

Two major recent polls also deserve attention.

Frank Graves of EKOS, in his poll done for The Canadian Press found there is, indeed, a Northern Populism brewing in this country, albeit a different mix than the populism that brought Trump to office.

Graves gave Canadians a rather “arbitrary” definition of populism as a rejection of elite authority and a wariness of immigration, trade and globalization.

He asked Canadians whether this populism was a bad or good thing. Only one in three labeled it as bad.

Seven in 10 said that type of populism is here and on the rise.

“The continued denial and dismissal of this new force among the more comfortable and educated portions of society is both empirically wrong and a force fuelling the very phenomenon they seem to despise,’’ Graves said.

It is a different brand of populism, however, because Canadians are still overwhelmingly supportive of global trade.

Graves has found other signs of this rise of populism. He found, for example, 58 per cent of those identifying themselves as Conservative supporters wanted Marine Le Pen to win the French elections (only 3 per cent of Liberal supporters backed her.)

Yes, Kellie Leitch fell flat with her “values test” platform in the recent Conservative leadership race, but polling data showed support for her position after she announced it and Graves suggests her poor showing was more a product of a poor campaign. He reminds that Stephen Harper’s support actually grew for a period after he took a harder line on refugees following powerful photos of young Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a Turkish beach.

Angus Reid Associates also released numbers this week that, at first glance, appeared to show this country embracing diversity. Respondents were asked whether they would vote for a party led by a woman, a gay man, a lesbian, a transgendered person, a Jew, a Black, an Indigenous Canadian and so on.

More than half of Canadians supported every category, but there were still alarming numbers.

Some 63 per cent said they could vote for a party led by a Sikh, meaning more than one in three Canadians would reject a leader based on religion. In Quebec, only 46 per cent would back a Sikh-led party.

There are four Sikhs in the Justin Trudeau cabinet and Jagmeet Singh is seeking the federal NDP leadership.

Only 58 per cent of Canadians would back a party led by a Muslim, only 45 per cent in Quebec.

A man wearing a religious head covering would be rejected by 42 per cent of Canadians. A woman wearing a religious head covering would be rejected by 47 per cent of Canadians. In Quebec, the rejection rate jumps to 64 and 66 per cent respectively.

So, this weekend, toast a country we are rightfully proud to call home. But don’t ignore the fact we still have a ways to go.

Tim Harper writes on national affairs. tjharper77@gmail.com , Twitter: @nutgraf1

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