Dear supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada,
You have a lot of work to do.
In the recent vote for party leadership, Andrew Scheer was declared the winner. Scheer has an association with The Rebel–a pseudo-“news” site that champions right-wing views–that is extremely problematic. The political and social commentary posted on The Rebel is racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist: it’s egregious and hateful against those who aren’t white, straight, cis, Christian, able-bodied men.* Since November 2016 Scheer has been interviewed by The Rebel three times, suggesting a particular favouritism to the company.
Hamish Marshall, Scheer’s campaign manager, is one of three directors of The Rebel. Though Marshall, according to Global News has said, ‘not involved at all in the content production and editorial side of things. My involvement is on the business side.’ This is not entirely true: in 2015 he was one of The Rebel’s election night analysts. So yes, Marshall may not be publically involved with The Rebel any longer, but that does not mean as one of the directors of the company his viewpoints and opinions are dismissed.
So what does this mean?
Well, although Scheer may not be going on the record as a supporter of The Rebel, it is pretty likely that he does support it–and it’s messages and viewpoints–considering the position of his campaign manager. Moreover, his voting history suggests a connection: “He is an opponent of abortion, equal marriage, trans rights and euthanasia. He voted against Bill C-16, which adds ‘gender expression or identity’ as a protected ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act.” Of course, many of Scheer’s supporters will think the same way as him on issues related to the rights of Othered and/or marginalized peoples.
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s likely that it’s a (racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist) duck.
As much as I have never been a fan of the CPC (or its provincial equivalents, and especially the even-more-Right-Wing Wild Rose Party in Alberta) or The Rebel, I’ve noticed in the last year or so that increasingly bigoted people (including those running for CPC leadership) no longer fear repercussions if they state something that denies someone their human rights. Kevin O’Leary and Kellie Leitch are excellent examples of this. For Canadians, these kinds of comments are antithetical to the Canadian Human Rights Act:
For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.
In short, the logic coming from the mouths or fingers of bigots is that ‘if you don’t look like me, speak with accented English (or French), or in some way different than me, it is okay for me to make discriminatory comments against you.’ But as George Takei noted, “Let me try to clear something up. ‘Freedom of speech’ does not mean you get to say whatever you want without consequences. It simply means the government can’t stop you from saying it. It also means OTHERS get to say what THEY think about your words.” In short, if you’re going to be an asshole it doesn’t mean you are free from consequences: The Criminal Code of Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Act mean there is a legal limitation on what you can and cannot say according to law.
This now brings me to Gavin McInnis, one of the commentators at The Rebel.
On twitter, NDP MLA for St. Albert, Marie Renauld alerted me to some of McInnis’ thoughts on people with disabilities.** Recently in a video, he was recorded mocking Chelsie Hill’s performance on the Ellen show. Hill, a paraplegic, dances with the aid of her chair. McInnis said, according to the National Post
(because I sure as hell won’t watch the video he’s in), ‘Who doesn’t want to know a handicapped person? That’s cooler than a black friend. I want to at least have a friend with, like, a lobster claw. You need that in your repertoire. Friends are baseball cards. You need some freaks in the mix.’
First of all, McInnis’ casual anti-blackness here is completely inappropriate. The ‘I have a black friend so I can’t be racist‘ trope he is perpetuating here is unequivocably racist. This, however, proves my point once again about The Rebel being racist.
Second, handicapped is no longer an acceptable term to use when describing persons with disabilities. This demonstrates his ignorance towards others, and frankly the fact that he does not care about perpetuating harm.
Third, by McInnis’ definition, I am a freak: I was born with a congenital malformation called syndactyly. The condition is not the same as ectrodactyly, which is commonly called “lobster claw hand,” but nonetheless it has altered my physical appearance so I don’t look “normal.”
Not surprisingly, I think McInnis’ words are abhorrent. They are unnecessarily cruel and said in a flippant way to make a point about difference: “ha ha ha people with disabilities (and people of colour) are oddities that I can ‘collect.'”
Do you know who collected peoples who were Othered? Slavemasters and Nazis. I’m not speaking with hyperbole here: slavemasters bought and collected black folks to do their labour (farming, cooking, cleaning, childcare), while Nazis rounded up people–including people with disabilities–to kill them as part of Aktion T4. The parallel McInnis is making between collecting people like cards and people with disabilities is chilling, and for me personally, nauseating.
On a related note: everything I have ever seen reported on The Rebel I have also found disgusting. It is bigoted opinions that Levant and friends try and parrot as legitimate news. Opinions are what you find in the editorials section, not in the main news content. As much as it masquerades itself as news, The Rebel is not news.
I don’t think I want to know how many CPC voters support the viewpoints of McInnis et. al., but considering that Scheer was voted as party leader, I would assume it is fairly large. These are, inadvertently, people who are advocating for my dehumanization as something that can be “collected.”
For CPC party members that didn’t vote for Scheer and don’t support his socially (very) conservative right-wing values, you need to do something. At this point in time, your support of the CPC party puts you into a position that is anti-human rights and anti-human dignity. It is also, inherently, pro-The Rebel.
“But not all Conservative Party Voters,” you might say. Sure, not all of you who are registered members may have voted for Scheer. But that doesn’t mean anything because Scheer is the head of the Party now: at some point in the game, your votes ceased to matter. So I ask you, how are you going to make sure other CPC party members currently serving right now don’t vote and think the same way as Scheer? That is something you need to think about and take action on.
As we get closer to the fall 2019 election date, will the CPC speak for you and what you want for Canada? Does The Rebel represent your vision of Canada?
Considering the outcome of the 2016 United States election, I am truly and personally scared for Canada and what it means for marginalized peoples moving forward.
* Yes, I know there are women commentators on The Rebel. This doesn’t mean they’re not misogynists.
** Yes, I completely stand by my point of punching him in the face.