Yes, Canada Has a Unity Crisis

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but unity in Canada is under serious attack. It’s a common talking point you hear from certain provincial leaders and political figures.

They are right, just not in the way you might think.

We are indeed facing a crisis in this country. But it’s a crisis of confidence and intelligence. One which is driven by politicians that are dangerously afraid of the consequences of progress. It’s far from the first time we’ve faced it, and it likely won’t be the last.

In a parliamentary democracy, the majority has the right to implement policies as it deems fit. They are accountable to their electors for those decisions, and to the judicial branch to ensure that those powers are checked.

When Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau were elected to lead Alberta and Canada respectively, it was mere days before heads were exploding and claims of treason were being thrown around.

In Alberta, conservative activist George Clark even planned a “kudatah” (His spelling, not mine) – to overthrow the socialist overlords. His thought was that by getting a petition with enough signatures delivered to the Monarch/her representatives, they would overturn a democratically elected government.

Maybe there was something to that rhetoric from Jason Kenney about the province not teaching enough history, but I digress.

Under s46 of the Criminal Code, a person commits “high treason” who a) kills, attempts to kill, wounds, imprisons, or restrains the sovereign, b) wages war against Canada or does any act preparatory thereto, or c) assists an enemy at war with Canada or any armed force against whom Canadian forces are engaged in hostilities, even if no state of war exists. The punishment for high treason is life imprisonment, without parole eligibility for 25 years.

A person commits “treason” who a) uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Canada or a province, b) discloses, without lawful authority, military or scientific material to agents of a foreign state, if he or she knows or should know that the material may be used to impair Canada’s safety or defence, or c) engages in certain listed conspiracies or attempted offences.

The punishment for treason is life imprisonment; normal parole rules apply. Canadian citizens and persons owing allegiance to Her Majesty in right of Canada who commit acts of high treason or treason are punishable under Canadian criminal law even if the acts were performed outside Canada.

I don’t like a lot of the policy directions the Liberals have taken, particularly on Bills C-48 and C-69 which have served to disrupt investor confidence and energy infrastructure development that my home province desperately needs. I think they’ve been inept in a lot of their activities, even though they may be well-intentioned.

Would I do some things differently than the Liberals have? Yes. Does that make them treasonous? Hardly.

Recently, several items have come across my newsfeed that may in fact border on being treasonous. Certainly, they are dangerous and meant to destabilize our legitimately elected government.

First off are the attacks of the CPC under the hand of Pierre Pollievre on Elections Canada, and by proxies at the National Citizen’s Coalition under the pen of Spencer Fernando.

Pollievre has accused Elections Canada of hiring influencers to encourage people to vote Liberal. This simply is not true. Elections Canada was undertaking a voter outreach strategy to engage youth in voting, where they are: online. This is no different than Elections Canada setting up polling stations in senior’s residences. Any action to increase participation in the franchise should be welcomed. Unfortunately, Elections Canada had not done its due diligence prior to announcing the plan, and when vetting the potential influencers found a heavy bias towards the Liberals in their online communications. Not before cutting cheques to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars. This is a PR mistake that could have been avoided and plays into Pollievre’s conspiracy theories.

Pollievre also complained about the Elections Commissioner giving a compliance agreement to SNC Lavalin for reimbursing employees for $110,000 in illegal donations to the Liberals. Two problems with his criticism? They were also found guilty of reimbursing donations to the Conservatives (albeit only $8,000 – but what is an acceptable amount of illegal donations before it becomes odious?)

The second problem is the Elections Commissioner is not under the purview of Elections Canada, they are part of the Department of Public Prosecutions, a change that Pollievre instituted himself with the so-called “Fair Elections Act” when he was a government minister in the Harper government. Being that he himself received such a compliance agreement for wearing partisan clothing at a government announcement as a minister, you would think he would be more intimately acquainted with how this works.
Fernando, the Elections Fellow for the National Citizens Coalition, a right-leaning “think-tank” tweeted out that with how corrupt Elections Canada had become they couldn’t be trusted. The NCC is the same group where Harper cut his teeth prior to becoming the leader of the Canadian Alliance, having written the Alberta Firewall letter during his time as President of the NCC. They are intimately intertwined in Canada’s conservative movement.

All of this rhetoric is aimed towards undermining Canadian’s confidence in their election system and destabilizing the Liberals legitimacy now, and particularly if they win in October.

The real concerning article which stumbled across my screen though was a “think piece” (of garbage) from disgraced former MLA and Freedom Conservative Party Leader Derek Fildebrandt on Loonie politics entitled “Alberta’s appointed Liberal Senators aren’t just bad representatives. They’re treasonous.

Fildebrandt has taken umbrage with some of the Alberta Senators choosing to vote in favour of Bill C-69 after amendments were made to it, claiming that these Senators have betrayed their province by doing so. Here again, this rhetoric is meant to undermine one of our Democratic Institutions (not in the electoral sense of democracy, but in the Westminster Democracy sense), the Senate.

This rhetoric is being further inflamed by misinformed communications from opposing politicians and agitators that Senators Paula Simons and Patti LaBoucane-Benson voted in favour of Bill C-48, something that Hansard shows to not be true.

Senator Simons, an experienced and thoughtful journalist has defended both her decision to vote in support of Bill C-69 and the reasons why she got to yes on the bill, as well as the actual voting records of herself and Senator LaBoucane-Benson on Bill C-48.

Fildebrandt has certainly not been one to conduct himself with a high degree of integrity in his politics, but this step is one too far for me.

The allegation of treason for taking a policy decision that doesn’t align with what you want is dangerous. It is only meant to inflame and agitate, something Fildebrandt is well known for. But when one starts preaching rhetoric like this, it can potentially incite radical responses and violence. It is irresponsible and destructive.

Ultimately Fildebrandt’s malicious take is merely a symptom of an ideology that is on dangerous ground, fighting with vigour as mainstream society views it as increasingly more irrelevant and divisive.

Conservatives were handed stunning defeats in Alberta, and Ottawa in 2015. Rather than responding with renewed policy and intellectual rigour, their response has been to leverage disinformation and distrust campaigns, manufacture an immigration crisis and incite rhetoric about a civil war and treason.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives can’t take no for an answer, and that is the real threat to our unity and democracy.

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