Election Time in Canada: Are You Ready?
by Wahida C. Valiante
(Saturday December 24 2005)
"If Canada's 750,000 Muslims want to make a real difference, they must be involved — not just in voting, but within the process itself, through volunteer work and social activism."
On April 12 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution seeking to protect the rights of Muslims and stem the tide of Islamophobia in the West. In the aftermath of the tragic events of 9/11, the resolution expressed deep concerns regarding the intensification of the campaign of defamation of Islam, and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities.
Originally put forward on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), this resolution received 31 supporting votes and 16 against, with five abstentions and one absence. Unfortunately, Canada not only voted against the resolution but actually urged other nations to do so!
What conclusions can one draw from this egregious behaviour of our government, other than that Canada actually supports or condones racism and intolerance against Islam and Muslims? A joint press statement by the Canadian Muslim Forum (CMF) and Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) was released soon afterwards requesting Prime Minister Martin to reverse his decision and take a stronger position on all forms of racism, including Islamophobia.
In addition, the press statement called on Members of Parliament to introduce the issue on the floor of the House of Commons during Question Period, so that Martin's government could provide full public accountability regarding its position on this issue. But this never happened, and will not happen, for the very good reason that Muslims and Arabs have no lobby group on Parliament Hill to influence the Prime Minister on behalf of their communities to reverse Canada's negative UN vote.
Yet Israel, a foreign country, has a very active and involved Ottawa lobby organization, the "Canada-Israel Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group" or (CIIFG). The CIIFG was founded in 1981 and includes MPs and senators from all parties. In the words of chairperson MP Jennings it "is a unique forum where all Parliamentarians that support Israel , regardless of their political creed, have an opportunity to come together and work for a common cause."
Jennings' group is planning on "setting up an information service for all members to highlight Israel’s scientific, cultural, social and educational achievements." (Ron Csillag, 2005) And their efforts have yielded tangible results. On Dec 2, 2005 Aluf Ben of Ha'aretz reported that "Canada has decided to adopt a more pro-Israel stance in the United Nations regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict and to move closer to the positions of Israel and the United States." Then there is the committee of Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel, which as its name suggests, is for Liberal MPs and senators only. It was founded in 2003 "to improve ties between Liberal parliamentarians and Israel, and by extension, Canada’s Jewish community. The group is committed to providing Canadian Jewry with a strong voice in Parliament that supports Israel." (Csillag, 2005) 
This group includes, among others, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and Joe Volpe, minister of human resources and skills development. This is the same group that co-authored and re-wrote Canada’s Middle East policy with 15 other Liberals in June 2003, and which is now guiding the Liberal government. (Ibbitson, 2004) 
In principle, there is nothing wrong with being friendly to Israel; in fact, Canada should have friendly relationships with all other countries, including Muslim ones. But the main concern here is that Muslims are under a real threat from anti-terrorist legislation, ethnic and racial profiling, anti-Islam media propaganda, and think tank "terrorist experts" loyal to Israel. Despite all these grave factors, Canada said No to the UN resolution calling on western nations to combat defamation campaigns against Islam and Muslims. To date, there have bene no public statements by any MPs who opposed Paul Martin's decision to vote No to this enlightened resolution.
These are very difficult and dangerous times for Muslims and to take the view that informed voting does not matter is nothing short of dangerous. It does matter, because we need to elect individuals who will protect the human rights, security, freedom, health care, and education of all Canadians. We need a government that will follow through with a comprehensive approach to chronic child poverty, housing shortages, the welfare and education of First Nations children, the environment, the elderly, and the family.
We need to select politicians who will work to balance Canada’s security without undermining our rights and freedoms and to establish foreign policies that do not erode our hard-earned reputation of being honest brokers throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world.
Many people are asking if the anti- Muslim immigrant beach riots that happened in Australia recently could happen in Canada. Some believe that a similar scenario could indeed repeat itself here because of our changing political environment and the relentless media portrayal of Islam and Muslims as potential or actual terrorists. One must remember that even in a democracy such as ours, those who own the media own public opinion, and whoever owns public opinion also owns the politicians. Furthermore, those who own the politicians (through financial support and opinion management) dictate the course of democracy.
The next question is: Where is the numerically strong Muslim community? Politicians are not fools — they know who contributes financially, who votes, and who gets them elected through volunteering their time and influence. If Canada's 750,000 Muslims want to make a real difference, they must be involved — not just in voting, but within the process itself, through volunteer work and social activism.
If we do not become more proactive, there will be significant consequences. Whenever any of us, Muslim or Arab, loses our rights and freedoms, history tells us that other losses are not far behind. We have been warned by the Almighty that those who take no action against injustice, poverty, oppression and corruption will be held accountable for their inaction, both in this world and the hereafter. Can the signs be any plainer?
. "All party group backs Israeli Parliament." Canadian Jewish News, Dec, 16 2005 By Ron Csillag.
. "In case you missed it, our Mideast policy has shifted." Globe and Mail, Dec, 3 2004, By John Ibbitson.
© 2005 Wahida C. Valiante 2005
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