This space has been a bit quiet for the past week as I’ve been taking some time to recharge my batteries, get outside in the beautiful air and see some family I haven’t been about to see for months due to COVID-19. That’s meant a trip home to my roots, back home in Northwestern Ontario and it’s been quite the elixir for my soul in these hard days.

Part of that time spent was on Canada Day, a day where many other Canadians got together with friends and family in COVID-19 safe ways for the day. For me, it was spent with my family next to the water, my idea of Heaven on Earth. But this year due to COVID-19 and hot, dry temperatures, there were no fireworks here, no big public celebrations, none of the usual celebrations. And while most of us have been willing to make this sacrifice too for the greater good, that doesn’t mean that others haven’t found other ways to celebrate the day. And it seemed to be in that spirit that Jim Bungente of Victoria, BC did something he does every year on Canada Day, something that seems maybe more poignant this year as folks struggle for ways to mark the day. But that lead to an act that is disturbing to some out there:

As I mentioned on CFRA Ottawa on Canada Day, as a Métis person, that holiday in particular is one that I’ve struggled with over the years. I have full respect for those who choose to celebrate the day and even though I may not be the one to be the fullest of throat celebrating that birthday, I understand why others are. And as I also said on CFRA that day, while I may not be the biggest celebrator of the day, I’m still proud to be Canadian because this country keeps getting better and we continue to strive to do so. In this past month of protest on racial equality, we’ve seen plenty of that and that gives me hope.

So when I read a story like that one, I come to it from that perspective and background. I don’t believe that defacing Mr. Bungente’s display is going to help anything, and even Mr. Bungente himself said that he wasn’t upset about the damage. In an interview with CTV Vancouver Island, he made it clear while he was  “quite surprised” and “disappointed”, that was about it. He said that he didn’t “want to sensationalize what happened or feed into political polarization in Canada today.” He also said in his opinion the people who did this were like “just angry kids looking for a way to rebel.”

He even goes onto state that he knows there is history here regarding Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples in this country, striking me as an ally more than anything else. In the end, this guy seemed to have the most stereotypical response one could have had, which is some good we can take from the incident. But let’s face it folks, I like wouldn’t be writing this piece if there wasn’t another shoe to drop here and on cue, here comes that shoe from one of the front runners for the Conservative Leadership:

When I saw this Tweet from Mr. O’Toole, it came off as some of the usual schlocky political crap we’ve come accustomed to from this clown car wreck that’s attempted to convince Canadians that it’s a serious campaign to elect the next Prime Minister of Canada. But then I read Mr. Bungente’s words about his feelings, and my stomach turned. Bungente made it very clear how he felt about what happened to him, because he was the victim here. He was clear that he didn’t “want to sensationalize what happened or feed into political polarization in Canada today.” He was also clear in saying that he felt that this was like some “angry kids looking for a way to rebel.”

And to that, O’Toole’s team put out a Tweet with messaging that could have passed for a Tweet from the current occupant of the White House, both in tone and in completely ignoring the wishes of those involved. O’Toole and his team saw a story where the victim of vandalism said clearly that he didn’t want to sensationalize it, and they delivered a jingoistic Tweet that turned the sensationalization knob to 11. They took a story where they victim said this was like the work of kids and turned that into a cheap shot at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the first time he was mentioned anywhere in this story at all, blaming him for “dividing the country”. In doing so, O’Toole saw Bungente’s pleas to not “feed into political polarization” and decided to try use a crime against him to force feed Canadians with more polarization like someone force feeding a goose to make fine foie gras.

But maybe worse of all, when Mr. Bungente made a sincere plea to not take this story and turn it into a political football, O’Toole decided this was the perfect time to kick it around like he was a Truest Bluest Pele. And that shows you right there the true instincts of this supposedly True Blue Conservatives. At a time when he could have taken the high road and tried to follow a plea to speak to our better angels as Canadians, he went straight into the gutter to try to help his fading chances of becoming Conservative leader.

Sometimes it’s not the biggest challenges or hardest test that teach us the most about someone’s character and ability to lead. Sometimes it’s the simplest things, the lowest hanging fruit, the ones where the right answer should come most naturally, that tells us the most about those who aspire to lead. With that Tweet, O’Toole failed that test and revealed so much about himself. To paraphrase O’Toole’s Tweet, “we need leadership that can unite us in our common cause of a better future.” We will not build a better Canada by ignoring parts of our history that some would rather forget or glorify. And we will not be able to build a better Canada when those who aspire to high office keep trying to “divide Canadians” by using victims for their own political advantage, against their expressed wishes. Mr. O’Toole failed this test and failed it miserably. I hope that he reflects on that failure the next time he decides to Tweet poetic about building a better Canada because if that’s an example of how he thinks it’s done, then he’s sadly mistaken.

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