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Patrick Luciani: Hate does not live in Canada

Commentary

My Toronto neighbours recently put up a sign with various religious symbols, national flags, and a Black Lives Matter fist with the slogan “Hate does not live here.”

I didn’t think much of it, after all, I live in a neighbourhood where the house up the street demands “Justice for George Floyd” and another declares “I support my neighbours in tents” referring to the homeless squatters in the local park (unless those neighbours get too close). Nothing unusual here, especially since I live in a riding that votes Green and NDP. Those who think differently tend to keep their thoughts to themselves.

These messages are a bit of political theatre and virtue signalling that say, “I eat my vegetables, do you?”

But it got me thinking about how much hate there actually is in Canada. Many feel that hate has swept the country with a rise in homophobia, Islamophobia, Asia bashing, and attacks on racial minorities. This perception has been magnified by the recent tragic deaths of four Muslim family members in London, Ontario.

Hate is a pretty strong emotion and most of us haven’t the time to carry too much of it as we go about tending the chores of daily life. As humans, we tend to hate the usual things such as the hurt and resentment of broken relationships, impossible bosses, or lining up at airport security. But I do hold a special hatred for those who abuse children or animals.

In the Second World War, the draft board asked Oscar Levant, the American actor and wit, if he could kill. He answered, “I don’t know about strangers, but friends, yes.”

But how much hate is really out there?

The usual perception is that hate crimes are committed by gangs such as the KKK and neo-Nazis, going about attacking and tormenting visible and racial minorities. The reality is a different story.

Over the past twenty years, Statistics Canada has kept a running tally of police-reported hate crimes classified by race, ethnicity, colour, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity and mental disability. For 2019, the average number of reported crimes that were motivated by hate was 1,946. These are reported crimes, both physical and non-physical attacks, but not convictions.

Antisemitism still remains the world’s leading universal hatred.

Of all the reported crimes in Canada that are not traffic related, hate crimes make up 0.1 percent of all criminal complaints. Only two percent of hate-related crimes are directed at the Indigenous population. Even though the anxiety of hate attacks has risen among Asians, the Jewish community was at the top of the victim’s list at 18 percent of reported hate crimes even though Jews represent only 1 percent of Canada’s population.

Antisemitism still remains the world’s leading universal hatred.

What also falls out from the data is that most of these hate crimes are committed by young males under the age of 20, and many as first-time offenders. The same trends are found in the U.S. and Sweden. We seem to have a crime wave of juvenile offenders, which indicates an entirely different criminal problem than how these types of crimes are typically thought of.

We can’t look into people’s hearts, but these metrics certainly don’t suggest a country engulfed in a wave of uncontrolled hate-filled criminality. For ageless hatred, you’ve only to look at the racial and cultural strife around the world where hatreds are passed down like inheritances from one generation to the next. Mercifully, Canada has been spared that national tragedy.

On the broader question of hate, the perception is that the extreme right dominates it. What gets less attention is that the radical left has its own brand of hatred that manifests itself with attacks on anyone who does not support the banner of political progressivism. In the U.K., for example, British Home Secretary Priti Patel, a daughter of Indian immigrants, earned the opprobrium and hatred of the intelligentsia for daring to take a different position on immigration.

In the U.S., hatred of the police has led to the killing of officers fueled by movements against law enforcement. Gay and lesbian police officers are not only banned from walking in Pride marches throughout North America but a number have been hounded and shamed into leaving their professions and accused of being traitors to the cause.

It has been said that the political left believed all humans were born good and made bad by society and that conservatives held that all people were born in sin, and it took the strictures of society to save our souls. That trope has now been put on its head. Progressives now believe some of us are highly suspect in our intentions and behaviour from birth.

Only a fool would claim that hate does not exist in Canada, but the tragedy in London, Ontario, shouldn’t be remembered by the act of one hate-obsessed individual, but by the millions of Canadians who fell to their knees in grief at the news and showed universal support for the family.

I’m glad hate doesn’t live in my neighbour’s house, but it doesn’t live in Canada either.

Ginny Roth: Don’t dismiss intersectionality, but save it from the nihilists

Commentary

Our practical politics is undergoing a realignment. The elite consensus is fracturing and parties on the left and right are grappling with populist influences as they attempt to remake their voting coalitions.

While this practical realignment works itself out, a cultural realignment is also emerging. It is easy to dismiss this version of the realignment as a performative culture war, and when it comes to Twitter, we probably should. But we should not ignore the real version of this debate emerging over dinner tables and in virtual office chats.

After all, these are the spaces we live in. Unfortunately, Canadians tend to talk past one another in these conversations just as they would online, deepening social divides and causing us to lose touch with one another.

Conservatives, in particular, tend to dismiss our progressive friends and family when they seek to engage with us on major cultural questions. We rage at cancel culture and scoff at microaggressions. Despite this, most conservatives believe that our society remains unequal and unjust in many ways.

It is time for conservatives to stop being defensive, let go of the status quo and articulate our own understanding of what a better, more just society would look like. Just as the left takes its inspiration from post-modern philosophy, we on the right should look to communitarian critiques of modernity and articulate a conservative, pluralist vision for society.

Progressives, on Twitter and in real life, do not come up with their buzzwords out of thin air. They take inspiration from a rich (if wrong) post-modern philosophical tradition. Intersectionality, critical race theory, post-colonialism, third-wave feminism and other left-wing critiques of modernity all begin with a few key thinkers who took serious issue with enlightenment-era notions of justice, freedom and equality.

Conservatives reject the communism and nihilism that emerged from this tradition, but we should not be so quick to dismiss its core insight. People are not the blank slates John Rawls and other liberal individualist thinkers wants them to be, so our ethics, our justice system and our public policy cannot and should not assume we were all born on third base.

A pluralist conservatism might require questioning free trade when Canadian workers could lose jobs.

The original conservatives, just like the post-modernists, understood that individuals are the complicated products of their environment. Income, hometown, parental education, social class, intelligence, birth order and even race, gender, sexuality and religion all play a role in shaping who we are. So why do we get our backs up when our friends and family tell us to check our privilege?

No one wants a society of vigilante cancellers and de-platformers. But conservatives are far more culturally compelling when we step out of our defensive posture. If we believe that the identity politics of the elite focuses too often on gender and race at the expense of income and class, then why not call for a more intersectional conception of justice? We all know that a poor man with an intellectual disability is more likely to have a problem navigating our courts system than a wealthy woman with a high IQ. If you doubt that, watch Making a Murderer on Netflix and you will not doubt it any longer.

A pluralist conservatism would call on our leaders to develop social policy for all of those who need it, not just those with the fastest access to elite gatekeepers. That might mean questioning free trade when Canadian workers could lose jobs, or it could mean cultivating an education system better suited to young boys who we know are more likely to struggle in traditional classroom settings.

Conservatives have our own philosophical tradition we can draw on for more inspiration. From Edmund Burke to 20th century American and Catholic communitarians, our intellectual forebearers did not call it intersectionality but they did have a vision for the common good over excessive individualism.

More recently, our ideological partners in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia have been experimenting with building public policy around this view and in some cases have built real political movements that speak to multi-ethnic working-class voters previously assumed to be inaccessible to conservative parties and leaders.

The progressive left’s approach to identity politics — from the toxicity of cancel culture to the empty symbolism of virtue signalling — is not contributing to a more just society. But the knee jerk response of the of the right (I’m not a racist!) is not up to the task of grappling with the big, serious problems of inequality we face. 

Cultural flashpoints of the past couple years, from the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police to the recent discoveries of more unmarked graves of indigenous children, demand more than what conventional equality-of-opportunity views of justice have to offer.

If those of us who find identity politics to be flawed want to play a role in the cultural realignment, we must articulate an alternative that is up to today’s challenges.