Let’s begin with Justin Trudeau.
Back in February, the latest Liberal messiah in waiting created a huge stir by suggesting he might embrace Quebec separatism if the governing Conservatives began marching the country down a road he did not want to travel.
“I always say that if ever I believed Canada was really Stephen Harper’s Canada — that we were heading against abortion, against gay marriage, that we were going backwards 10,000 different ways — maybe I would think about wanting to make Quebec a country,” Trudeau said.
Some viewed that as the foot-in-mouth ranting of a spoiled theatrical brat. Others as a poorly expressed libertarian rejection of the old slogan “my country, right or wrong.”
Still, at least the son of the former prime minister was speaking up in support of some core personal and political values, even if the threat to them originated only in his own mind.
But where has this outspoken defender of forbearance and freedom of choice been during the Quebec election?
Why has Trudeau, an MP from Quebec, been so clammed up and buttoned down during a campaign in which personal liberties and Canadian values are facing real not just imaginary threats?
The separatist Parti Quebecois has been backtracking all over the place, but there’s still a strong and disturbing strain of intolerance for minority rights running through its platform and pronouncements.
As the campaign ticks down to next Tuesday’s vote, this troubling intolerance has been greeted in Ottawa by a silence worthy of lambs. There’s been no push back from the federal parties or the grandstanding media hounds in their ranks such as Trudeau.
The Conservatives, New Democrats and Liberals have all, by and large, been shamefully tight-lipped about the poll-leading PQ’s agenda, be it their plans to break up the country or the paranoid particularism of identity politics.
The self-interested New Democrats don’t want to alienate their soft-separatists power base in Quebec. The complacent Conservatives don’t want to inflame a unity debate. The drifting Liberals hardly know what’s best for anyone anymore.
But if silence means consent, consider some of the policies they’re consenting to.
If the PQ forms the next government, it intends to ban public sector employees from openly wearing religious symbols such as the turban, yarmulke or hijab, though a Christian crucifix on a chain is apparently permissible.
At one point, party leader Pauline Marois promised to ban aboriginals, anglophones, and allophones from running for municipal and provincial office unless they first passed a French test.
The PQ later clarified the policy would actually only target new immigrants, who would have to take a test in order to be granted Quebec citizenship.
Yes, creating Quebec citizenship is another PQ campaign promise.
As is toughening up already tough language laws. And preventing allophones and francophones from studying at English post-secondary colleges.
According to Marois, this is all about protecting Quebec’s identity, language and values. What it really amounts to, though, is discrimination by another name. Just as the silence emanating from Ottawa is appeasement by another name.
To be fair to Trudeau, he may not be fulminating against the PQ’s xenophobic prejudices, but he is reportedly helping out the provincial Liberal candidate in his own Montreal riding of Papineau.
That’s a mousy squeak compared to his leonine denunciation of the fantasy social agenda he fancifully constructed for Harper, but at least it’s something.
And that’s what Trudeau and the whole Ottawa crew seem to be doing — the very least they can do.