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Atlantic Seal Hunt
PM Supports Seal Hunt - Denies Canada's Multiculturalism
By Myles Higgins
Thursday, September 27, 2007
What do Atlantic seals and multiculturalism have in common? They were both center stage when Stephen Harper visited New York this week.
I've often said politicians are eternally on standby to give their constituents something with one hand before quickly taking it away with the other. This week Stephen Harper took that practice to almost artistic levels, when he managed to display support for Canadian citizens and a total lack of support, at almost exactly the same time.
Arguably none were more directly impacted by both than the native peoples of Canada and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Recently the North American Environmental Commission dismissed an application by two animal rights groups who claimed the Atlantic seal hunt violates international agreements on environmental protection. Though the application was dismissed, Harper, while in New York on Tuesday, was approached by reporters on the issue, it was there that he publicly showed his support for the annual Atlantic seal hunt by saying it (the hunt) is "dedicated today to humane and regulated practices."
When asked why Canada permits the hunt, Harper said anti-sealing groups present false information about the practice and that the clubbing of baby seals has been outlawed for over 20 years.
He went on to say, "The seal population is exploding in Canada - it's not an endangered species by any means."
"There is no reason to discriminate against it any more than any other industry of animal husbandry. We will not be bullied or blackmailed into forcing people out of that industry who depend on the livelihood, based on things that are simply stories and allegations that are simply not true."
Well done Mr. Harper. Unfortunately your next statement, though also on accurate, clearly pulled the rug out from under many of the same people you supported with that comment.
After giving the people of Atlantic Canada, native hunters and the people of Quebec, who are the primary participants in the hunt, such a strong show of support on the international stage, Harper almost immediately turned around and exposed the total lack of understanding and that has existed in Canada for decades. To his credit, at least he had the stones to tell the truth rather than hide behind the standard rhetoric of most federal politicians.
When asked by another reporter why Canada is perceived with less hostility around the world than the U.S., even though the two have similar cultures, Harper's response revealed his true feelings and a reality that has existed in Canada for years.
Harper responded by saying, among other things, that "...Canada's nature as a "bicultural country" gives politicians an inherent understanding of cultural differences on the world stage.
Now there's a mouthful.
Canada has long billed itself to the world as a multicultural country, but Harper's response at long last has revealed the truth to the world. The Prime Minister has, in one simple sentence, finally put to rest any misconceptions once and for all and removed the long standing façade that the government of Canada actually respects the cultural diversity of its people. It doesn't.
No matter what the political rhetoric, Canada is not multicultural in the eyes of its government and the Prime Minister has now said as much.
It can only be assumed that by calling Canada a "bicultural" Country he was referring to the two the Anglophone and Francophone majority in Canada, but what of the other cultures that exist here? Are they of no value? Do they not exist in Canada, or does Ottawa simply refuse to support their diversity?
What of the cultural identity of people in Newfoundland and Labrador? People who were a separate and distinct nation before entering Canada after world war two? Were the people of Canada wrong when, in a poll conducted just a few years ago, more than 70% of them said they viewed the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as a unique culture?
What about the various native groups in Canada? Are the Innu no longer a distinct culture?
What about the Inuit or the Mi'kmaq? Do they not have their own culture?
What about Canada's many immigrant citizens? Canadians who originally hailed from places like China, India, Germany, Russia and so on, are they not representative of separate and distinct cultures in Canada or does Ottawa simply hope to assimilate them and bury their past and their traditions?
Though Harper's lack of support for the cultural diversity of Canada is disgusting, to his credit he is the first Prime Minister actually willing to admit the truth. The only cultures that matter to the government of Canada are those who account for most of the votes needed to get a party elected and keep them in office.
For those who still labor under the perception that multiculturalism is alive and well in Canada, Harper's comment that Canada understands cultural differences around the world because it is itself a "bicultural" society, should send a clear message that the government of Canada truly has no understanding of cultural differences around the world or at home.
Harper referring to Canada as "bicultural", rather than multicultural, clearly identifies a shift in direction that has been happening in Canada for decades, one that has been clear to those who live in one of Canada's forgotten cultures.
It's a shift that has seen Canada increasing align with U.S. policy and under Stephen Harper that alignment, thanks to his silencing of the voices of people who would fight it, is gaining momentum every day with the Conservative decision to cut funding to women's rights groups, court challenges and more.
The so called "melting pot" of the U.S homogenizes all cultures into the mainstream, while officially recognizing only two distinct groups of people, Anglophone and Hispanic, at the expense of all others.
Canada has long touted itself as a society that celebrates multicultural diversity in its people, though it has never really done anything, other than talk about it, to prove that it respects any distinct culture outside the French speaking people in Quebec.
The multicultural mosaic we have all heard so much about may be something Canada's political leaders claim to support, but in reality is Canada any different than the U.S when it comes to respecting and celebrating diversity?