Harper’s Family Values: Silence, violence and social conservatism

harper christmas card

This past week sounded the end of the political summer recess, but this week was not only the end of the summer vacations and the start of yet another parliamentary cycle, in fact this past week hasn’t been the start of a new parliamentary cycle, it’s the dawn of what might be one of the longest electoral hauls in recent history.

You know an electoral cycle has started when the Liberals hold their convention in deep blue Edmonton and that the Conservatives start rattling the cage of their social conservative base. This past week both the Conservatives and the NDP tried to define themselves as ideological alternatives to the big tent, supposedly pragmatic, centrist Liberal Party.

Normally when trying to mark a stark difference between themselves and the rest of the political spectrum, Conservatives use the holy scripture of economics. But in the past week the Conservatives have made less reference to their economical record, than to their socially conservative principals and values.

The Conservative government knows that in many ways their base—which is mainly made up of anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-everything that might differ from the 1950s model of society—is angry that they haven’t seen their champions stand up in the house and push forward their reactionary agenda.

But all hope is not lost for them. If this past week was an indication of anything it’s that the Conservative elites want to use the mantra of social conservatism to gain leverage over their rivals in the upcoming electoral cycle.

But die-hard social conservatives who want to see abortion and gay marriage “regulated”—aka gradually banned—here’s a news flash: the Conservatives aren’t the sole defenders of law and order, aren’t the champions of “traditional family values” and aren’t socially conservative anymore.

This week at the same time that Harper and his inner cycle were boasting about their ardent defense of traditional values, yet another aboriginal youth was violently murdered. Families and an entire community were ripped apart.

justice_for_families sisters in spirit Ottawa
Members of Families of Sisters in Spirit, a non-profit made up of family members of missing and murdered Aboriginal women (photo: ipsmo.wordpress.com)

It’s always a very tricky thing to try to retake a moral high ground when you have no footing on those grounds anymore. These Conservatives have, in many ways, actively assaulted “traditional family values” in economic terms, but also indirectly through their silence.

For Stephen Harper, the epidemic of violence targeting native women throughout Canada, which has claimed the lives of over 1200 women, isn’t something to be worried about, maybe because it touches a nerve. The Conservative inaction when it comes to this national tragedy is hideous because it sends the message that violence against native women and women in general is defacto decriminalized.

The cases of Hernandez and Sedinger-Ayala and many more further underline this frightful development. Because of an aberration of Canadian immigration law, mothers that are sponsored by their parent who have legal status in Canada are completely at their mercy; here too violence against women is defacto decriminalized. And the Conservatives who have intensified within the past few years their crackdown on “bogus refugees” use this loophole as a means towards an end on a regular basis thus breaking-up families and tearing communities apart.

So it seems that the Conservative crusade of “traditional families values” got stuck in a moment and can’t get out of it, that moment being the 1920s. Single-mother families are completely omitted by this current Conservative government and yet single mothers are the backbone of many Canadian families in this day and age. The Conservatives have put forward tax reforms: “income splitting” that favors their ideal of “family”—stay home mothers are okay, but single mothers that struggle most of the time with several jobs to get by are not.

The Conservatives seem to apply their social conservatism and their law and order agenda when it suits them. “You’re either with the pedophiles or you’re with us!” shouted our beloved Vic Toews from across the aisle… well either you defend all children, all families, all Canadians from discrimination and abuse or you don’t!

You can’t fly the flag of “family values” and yet in economic and social terms pursue policies that are the most detrimental to families of all walks of life. Maybe it’s because the Conservative definition of family is different from mine. Maybe their families live in Bedrock. One thing is certain: this Conservative government’s outlook on life is stuck in the Stone Age.

Sheila Sedinger Ayala
Sheila Sedinger Ayala facing deportation (image: Radio-Canada)

We need to break this silence; the greatest threat to our families and to our communities in this day and age is the violence that we perpetrate against our mothers and sisters, girlfriends, our partners, our native sisters, our transsexual, transgender sisters, our homosexual and queer sisters, all of our sisters.

No women, no one should have to endure violence silently.

We are all family.

A luta continua.

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