Sometimes it pays to sit through a 53 minute 42 second Kenney press conference because something unexpected will happen at the very end. In this case it happened at the 46:24 mark.
Last week in the wake of the horrific attack on the Afzaal family in London, premier Kenney and justice minister Madu held a press conference at the Al-Rashid Mosque to announce three anti-racism measures. These were:
- The appointment of a community liaison to connect with minority groups to provide the government “with a range of perspectives and expertise on how [it] can tackle hate-motivated crimes and incidents,”
- The creation of a Hate Crimes Coordination Unit to work with law enforcement to improve crime mitigation efforts and facilitate training, intelligence gathering and investigation.
- The implementation of a security infrastructure program to provide funding for security training and facility upgrades for groups that are targets of hate crimes.
The premier characterized these initiatives as “concrete actions” to keep Albertans safe.
Leaving aside the fact that there’s nothing new here (in 2019 Notley’s government created a special unit to fight hate crimes and provided millions to train grassroots groups fighting racism and the feds have provided funding for security infrastructure since 2007) none of these measures address the real problem: how to prevent racism from arising in the first place.
Nevertheless, some reporters asked Kenney for his thoughts on how to attack the root cause of hatred in Alberta.
Kenney said he’d reflected on this question in the 15 years he’d been the federal minister for multiculturalism and immigration. He concluded “the single most powerful weapon against hatred is simply relationships.” We can have all sorts of government programs but “hatred comes from the heart. The most effective way of changing someone’s heart from hatred to respect to love is through relationships…”
This is a jarring statement from the man who as a federal cabinet minister promoted the barbaric cultural practices hot line and banned Muslim women from wearing face coverings at citizenship ceremonies.
Later a reporter asked the question again, this time it was directed to Aumer Assaf, spokesperson for the Canadian Islamic Centre.
Kenney responded (under the mistaken impression the question was meant for him) saying people don’t need government programs or government funding to get rid of racism. “It’s got to come organically, naturally from the community.” Government can set the tone but the informal outreach has to come from the community which is why he asked his MLAs to check in with Muslims in their constituencies.
When the reporter clarified the question was intended for Mr Assaf, Mr Assaf said while he agreed that relationships are very important, “I will challenge the notion that it’s organic.”
Mr Assaf described being a schoolboy and learning that Canada was a mosaic where everyone was equal under the law. He characterized Canada as an exceptional country which has its blemishes but is moving towards goodness, and said the way to move towards goodness is by “trusting one another” and by getting “a really good education at a very young age.”
Which brings us back to the idea of concrete action.
Last week the Kenney government released the recommendations of the anti-hate crime advisory council (another initiative started by the Notley government).
The advisory council calls for the decolonialization of education and the development of a curriculum with a focus on anti-Indigenous racism, systemic racism, and other forms of discrimination which disrespects the human rights of BIPOC Canadians.
If Kenney truly wants to take concrete action he should scrap the UCP curriculum review and re-examine the curriculum bearing in mind the advisory council’s recommendations and Mr Assaf’s observation that racism can be rooted out by a really good education at a very young age.
Or Mr Kenney can spin around and around in the vain hope that by some miracle hatred will turn to respect and even love while religious minorities apply for funding to turn their places of worship into fortresses to protect themselves against those who reject their right to exist.