In every election campaign is seems that an announcement is made, or a promise is put on the table that really speaks a loud truth about the leader or party making it. It’s the kind of thing that may not be big or consequential alone by itself, yet when you put it in context with other things happening in the race, it sends a stark message. And sometimes when that happens, it sends a really bad message to the electorate. Today the Conservatives made one such announcement, one that might seem innocuous by itself:
Yes folks, the Conservatives are promising to ban puppy mills and “take credible steps to secure the welfare of animals”. And really, who would possibly be against being nicer to pets, right? This is as motherhood and apple pie as one can get, so you’re likely wondering what the problem here might be. The problem has nothing to do with animal welfare, not at all. The problem comes when you compare this policy to another statement that Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole made on the weekend, and the dissonance that it creates:
On Saturday Mr. O’Toole had a chance to answer a real, simple, straightforward question: will you continue the federal government’s legal fight against Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders to compensate Indigenous kids who were unnecessarily removed from their communities and put in the child welfare system? You might think that for someone who says he’s serious about reconciliation and doing better than the current Liberal government, it would be a layup to say he’d cancel the legal action that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have been fighting in court for years. Hell, there would be a few million saved right there to put towards that reconciliation, right?
But nope. Instead of taking that open layup and slamming it home, he acted like Ben Simmons right at the rim; he passed. He couldn’t bare to bring himself to do what should have been so easy to do, literally the bare minimum to show that he was different. Instead he mouthed some weak admiration for Cindy Blackstock and the work that she had taken in support of these kids. Heck, he even said that he doesn’t “want to see the federal government fighting Indigenous communities in court.” If that were so true, you’d think again he’d jump at a chance to actually prove that and put a marker down. Instead we got that crap. Of course, that only came a few days after he dropped this crap on the Indigenous community from coast to coast to coast:
Yeah, he believes that “we should be proud to put our flag back up”, as if some how lowering it out of respect for thousands of dead children was some sign of disrespect or lack of pride in our country or flag. It was a real culture war dog whistle to try to insinuate that basically showing any contrition for genocide was somehow equivalent to showing “disrespect” for the symbols of our nation. Essentially O’Toole took the position that Canada has taken too long thinking about this and enough is enough. It was ignorant, disturbing yet all too familiar coming from the blue team.
What amazes me about all of this is that when you juxtapose that against today’s puppy announcement, it makes it look like Mr. O’Toole is more concerned about the welfare of family pets than the children and loved ones in actual Indigenous families. In taking these positions, he’s actually promising more humane treatment for dogs, while refusing to take basic steps to ensure humane treatment of actual human beings. And what makes this worse, you know this is to get votes and soften his image. None of that is a mistake in my opinion.
Mr. O’Toole claims that he’s been talking to Indigenous leaders since he became Opposition leader last fall, but while he’s been talking, it’s clear that he hasn’t been doing any bloody listening. If he had, he’d realize that it takes more than pretty words and admiration to actually make reconciliation happen. All of this feels like he’s paying lip service to this important matter, very similarly to how the current Liberal government has. Many people thought that after the discoveries at former Residential Schools that Canadians would demand that their political leaders do better in this campaign, but the longer this campaign goes, the less that seems to be the case. That shows when the party leading the race to become government things that they’ll get more political mileage out of promising to be human to dogs than to Indigenous kids. That’s where we are, and folks, that’s just shitty.