In the '80s, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney unequivocally denounced prejudice and those who stoke it. Now, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer can barely muster a bad word about The Rebel.
While Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist, Rebel Media contributor Faith Goldy was streaming live from the demonstration. For those who'd looked away from The Rebel's racial appeals, Goldy's breathless narration in favour of the white nationalists made it hard to unsee.
It should not have taken a racist march and a white woman's death in Charlottesville for the federal Conservative party to distance itself from The Rebel. It's unfortunate that the party has been more than willing to stoke fears and look away from those within its ranks who would.
From the dog whistle of the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act to the Islamophobic niqab ban of the last federal election, there is clearly a powerful corrosive element within the party.
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It hasn't always been there. Digging through the Toronto Star archives, I found a story that surprised me.
In 1986, answering a call-in radio show question about a white-supremacist group trying to establish a camp in Alberta, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney said:
“I’m aware of strains of anti-Semitism that come from Alberta and elsewhere... I tell you that racism and anti-Semitism will be resisted with all of the vigor that I personally, as Prime Minister, can summon ... This is the bane of the existence of a civilized society.”
It is a stunning and precise indictment of hate.
Contrast it to the statement that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer made about The Rebel after the events in Charlottesville: "I've got a positive vision [and] I want to get that positive vision out in a positive way and talk to people in a way that talks about issues and brings people together. So as long as the editorial direction of that particular institution remains as it is, I won't be granting those types of interviews."
Thirty years ago, the leader of the party and leader of the country was unequivocal: Mulroney was willing to name names, specific types of racism and to stand forcefully against hate. Given the chance to define what he as leader won't allow, Scheer opts to speak in vagaries.
Now, the party has willingly engaged with The Rebel and the hateful sentiments it represents. Scheer, for example, appeared on The Rebel three times during his leadership run and even joked with Goldy that they could go duck-hunting together.
It's an unfortunate state of affairs for Conservative party members and voters who have real concerns and substantial issues but are stuck parsing whether their representatives are willing to curry favour with racists.
Arguably, there are more non-racists than racists, yet the party has thus far chosen a losing tactic. Out of a fear of losing voters, they've been unwilling to declare what they stand for at a time when Canadians need leaders who stand up to the vicious and vile.