The following is a telephone conversation that might have happened but didn’t.
1-800-Turn-them-in: Yes, sir. Please state the nature of the Barbaric Cultural Practice, and identify everyone involved.
Caller: Well, I think this “snitch line” is insulting to Canadians and an example of “dog whistle politics” that’s meant to froth up a narrow but loud segment of the electorate at the expense of Canadian values such as fairness, due process, pluralism, and the rule of law. It’s mean-spirited. It’s divisive. It’s bullying. It’s xenophobic. And to be blunt, I think it’s barbaric.
1-800-Turn-them-in: Are you suggesting the Government of Canada can be reported under the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act Tip Line?
Caller: Yes. It’s barbaric. It’s reminiscent of the old East Germany where neighbours were encouraged to report on each other. You want more examples?
Mandatory minimum sentences for criminal offences that can be grossly unfair, particularly to members of First Nations communities and their families. All too often, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and the results can be tragic.
Depriving Canadians living abroad from voting.
Gagging government scientists.
Picking public fights with the judiciary and blaming judges for doing their jobs interpreting the Charter and upholding the law. It’s disrespectful to our institutions, the courts, and our system of government.
And that public row the prime minister and the minister of justice had with Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin last year? What was the point of that?
1-800-Turn-them-in: Hmmm [the clicking of a keyboard can be heard in the background]. Is that name spelled M-C-L or MACL? And can you provide contact information for this McLachlin person so that we can open up a file?
Caller: What the …?
1-800-Turn-them-in: Sir, did you say there was a barbaric cultural practice involving a dog? Or was it a whistle? We have no jurisdiction to deal with animals or whistles, but if someone's wearing a niqab or a veil to a citizenship hearing, we are extremely interested. Most Canadians believe that it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family. So we have zero tolerance for veils and niqabs worn in citizenship ceremonies, especially if they are worn by Muslims.
Caller: Oh, for God’s sake. It’s a citizenship ceremony, not a police lineup. Besides, everyone who immigrates to Canada is exhaustively vetted by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and women are required to remove their niqabs and veils for the purposes of identification to CIC officials.
The woman who went to court on this is a devout Muslim who removed her niqab in front of a Citizenship and Immigration Canada official before writing and passing her citizenship test. So, clearly, CIC knew what she looked like. What's the point of trying to ban the niqab for a mere ceremony? The law requires that Citizenship Court judges allow the greatest possible religious freedom when administering the oath.
Why don't you expose real barbaric cultural practices, such as the justice systems in Saudi Arabia where Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and where others are beheaded or even crucified? Or in Egypt, where a Canadian citizen, Mohamed Fahmy, was convicted in a sham trial and served prison time for being a journalist.
1-800-Turn-them-in: We have no jurisdiction to deal with barbaric cultural practices in countries that are allies in the war against terrorism, but if you have more information on women wearing veils and niqabs in the public service, we’d like to know.
Caller: What are you smoking? Even Conrad Black, by no means a Liberal or NDP supporter, said in the National Post: “… to make a major election issue out of a woman wearing a face-covering niqab at a citizenship swearing-in ceremony after privately identifying herself is a shabby act of desperation. There is no reason for the government to do any of this except pandering to knuckle-dragging authoritarians. It all incites worried curiosity about what cloven-footed, horned and furry–headed motivational beasts may lurk within Harper’s mind.”
1-800-Turn-them-in: Hmmmm [the clicking of a keyboard can be heard in the background], C-O-N-R-A-D… is the last name spelled B-L-A-C-K? And can you provide contact information for this Mr. Black so that we can open up a file?
Caller: Oh for God’s sake. Didn't you read the article? He also talked about mandatory minimum sentences and Bill C-51. He said: “The entire reactionary agenda is obnoxious to traditional Canadian respect for rights and due process. The omnibus crime bill imposed arbitrary and draconian sentences …. It built more prisons in response to a declining crime rate, reduced rehabilitative activity and inmate access to families, and is in sum an unrelievedly retrograde, total-immersion plunge into primitivism. Native people will be the chief occupants of the new prisons, which should be repurposed at once as assisted housing. The bill is a disgrace and should be repealed, even by this government if it is re-elected.”
1-800-Turn-them-in: Thank you, caller. We have enough information on this Mr. Black, and we'll open a file. Do you have another barbaric cultural practice to report?
Caller: Yes. It was barbaric not to accept more refugees who were fleeing the civil war in Syria and who might have been murdered by ISIL. Even retired general Rick Hillier, who was formally Canada's chief of defence staff, said Canada could take at least 50,000 refugees by Christmas. But the government dillydallied, claiming, among other things, that ISIL terrorists might be plants within the refugees and commit terrorist acts in Canada.
1-800-Turn-them-in: Hmmm [the clicking of a keyboard can be heard in the background]. That’s spelled H-I-L-L-I E R, sir? The government has kept Canada safe from jihadi terrorism. ISIL sleeper agents may infiltrate the Syrian refugees and commit more terrorist acts against Canada.
Caller: Canada has always welcomed refugees such as Hungarians in the late 1950s; Ismails and other South Asians forced to flee East Africa in th ’70s; Vietnamese Boat People. Why are the Syrians different? Is it the niqabs?
1-800-Turn-them-in: The government has kept Canada's economy strong throughout the recession years and has effectively wiped out the deficit.
Caller: What on earth have you been smoking to come up with that non sequitur? There wouldn’t have been such a large deficit if the government hadn't cut the GST by 2 per cent.
1-800-Turn-them-in: If you are suggesting that I’m smoking marijuana, sir, I assure you that marijuana is infinitely worse than tobacco, and legalization will lead to all sorts of problems like…
Caller: …fewer emergency room visits by teenagers? Fewer deaths from alcohol poisoning? Lower crime rates? Reducing the power of drug gangs? Higher tax revenues to pay for government services?
1-800-Turn-them-in: No. It will lead to brothels on every street corner adjacent to the marijuana dispensaries. And economic collapse… a higher prime rate... unimaginable deficits…The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse….the end of days… Armageddon.
1-800-Turn-them-in: Caller…. Caller…. Are you still there?
[A dial tone is heard]
NOTE: This article was written before the Oct. 19 election and deliberately not published until now.