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Sunday, October 26, 2014

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Canada: slumbering under the snow

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The Harper government is so ideologically based, so disinterested in facts, that more of our citizens and friends who need compassion are suffering.

Bill C-398, recently defeated in parliament, was supported by pharmaceutical companies, and would have made it easier for Canadian generic drug companies to produce lifesaving HIV/AIDS drugs for developing countries unable to manufacture them. The drugs will not be sent. Children will die. Canada has lost again.

The Harper government has passed laws ensuring Canada’s place in the “no nonsense, take no prisoners” family of nations. Debate, the lifeblood of a democracy, is mocked, not only in the House but at the committee level, where the Canadian middle road through negotiations used to be found. It’s as if the Harper government is sitting underneath a basketball net and simply tossing the ball into it. There is no need to dribble. The opposition, another Canadian voice, has been locked in its dressing room. 

The Harper government has clumped together bills, under an “omnibus” banner. Bill C-10, The Safe Street and Community Act, allows it to bully its way through with minimal discussion and little reliance on experts who know more about crime than an elected official. When the government is asked how it can pass a law requiring minimum sentencing – a process that excludes judges’ ability to determine extenuating circumstances and has shown to be a failure in places such as Texas – its response is that “that is their mandate.”

Mandate indeed. Did the Conservative government run on a platform of “minimal debate”? Certainly not. Did the 35 per cent who voted for this government check off their ballot knowing Bill C-31 and refugee policy would exclude the most vulnerable from entering our country, or if they were able to stay, be refused medicine? No!

And while this happens, so many of our Jewish community members rejoice at our government’s position on Israel and believe all is, therefore, just fine. A large segment of our community has become a one-value group and suspended their critical thinking and a sense of national and international brotherhood that ensures the rights and needs of the impoverished, the sick and our neighbours who have made legal mistakes and found themselves in prison for six months with rapists and murderers.

What happened to us?

I am deeply appreciative of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stand on Israel. The argument that Israel is always under threat, and its existence is at question is, I believe, correct. I am not, however, prepared to weaken Canada through my unconditional support of our government (and its stance on Israel), because if I were to, what would be left of our compassionate nation and its ability to extend support to Canadians, our brothers and sisters in developing nations, and our, Homeland, Israel? The fact that we cannot make a distinction between support of Israel and anything else is a dangerous path to be on. 

An ideologically based leadership translates into an angry, one-dimensional country. This cannot auger well in the long run for anybody. The tolerant Canada that once was is sleeping under a blanket of undisturbed snow. What will be if we allow it to slumber?

On Dec. 15, the government is releasing its Designated Countries list, which will likely include Hungary, where Jews and Roma are suffering persecution. Refugees from countries on the list will be eligible only for health care deemed necessary for public health and safety. See www.doctorsforrefugeecare.ca.

Avrum@veahavta.org

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