Swept under the rug: Canada submits again

By John Leung

‘Finally, after a bit of a lull, Ottawa sees some hot action. On Thu., Nov. 18, after a year and a half of speaking out openly against the American administration and stepping on a George W. Bush doll on CBC’s comedy program This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the Honourable Carolyn Parrish, MP, was sacked from the Liberal caucus. While pundits have said that Ms. Parrish’s sacking has been a long time coming, it should not be mysterious that the firing must have been linked to the announced visit of George W. Bush later in November. While it could be understandable that Ms. Parrish was fired for being out of line, it is the fairly obvious timing of this firing that should provoke outrage. Here is a Canadian citizen speaking her mind, and just as a VIP is about to visit, she is swept under the proverbial rug. However, this is only one act in a long list of alarming actions that the government caucus has taken, and the tacit approval of the Conservatives of this act is disturbing to say the least.

A Canadian citizen, under the Charter of Rights of Freedoms, is entitled to the freedom of speech. In her stunt on This Hour Has 22 Minutes where she stomped on the aforementioned doll of the U.S. president, as well as all of her preceding comments regarding Americans and their president, is her own opinion. While it may not be reflective of the electorate that she represents, she is still a Canadian citizen, and has all the rights that are entailed. But it is the reaction from her former party that is alarming: the stunt was all in the name of comedy, so why wasn’t it taken as a joke, just that? Where has the Canadian sense of humour gone in this case? And why is Ms. Parrish being swept under the proverbial rug now on the eve of Dubya’s visit, and not long ago? The question therefore should be: is improving Canada-U.S. relations more important than free speech?

However, the reaction of the Conservative Party and its leader Stephen Harper are no better. The Tories had advocated a more lax party system, with MPs given more leeway to speak what they had to say. However, Harper’s continued asking for Parrish to be sacked is hypocritical: Ms. Parrish was speaking her mind, just like what the Tories were advocating for MPs. So why was Mr. Harper so adamant, and him and his party so jubilatory when Ms. Parrish was sacked? For them, this should be a serious defeat in their drive to make MPs more independent, and not a victory. And consider this: would they have sacked Ms. Parrish if she had been a Conservative MP, speaking out against a Democratic president? Their reactions on this matter have only gone to show that the Tories have seemingly forgotten about that goal.

As for Mr. Martin, this is perhaps the first time that he has done something that has been remotely decisive. In his term so far, he has been dithering the issues like same-sex marriage, and of course the status of Ms. Parrish. For him to execute the sacking now may be shown as Mr. Martin finally showing some leadership, but it is a lamentable show of Mr. Martin cracking down on dissent in his party. On top of this, to sack a member in a minority situation is a foolish move at best, and imperils the survival of the government in the future. In other words, it is the Liberals not only silencing internal dissent, but also shooting themselves in the foot. But regardless, Ms. Parrish’s sacking is just another episode in the long tome of typical Canadian cowardice in the face of the American behemoth. I guess we aren’t any better than those Americans, eh?

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