Dear Jeffrey Simpson: Will I sound like you when I am 57? I wonder.
I couldn't help but get terribly annoyed at Simpson's column in the Globe today, headlined "Harper chasing ethnic vote with Air-India inquiry."
The judicial inquiry into the 1985 Air-India bombing called by the Harper government will serve no useful purpose, except as part of the Conservative Party's newfound determination to play ethnic politics.There was something so off-putting about this column. Perhaps it's just the distaste I have when I hear the term "ethnic." It reminds me of a drunken Jacques Parizeau.
Perhaps it's also that Simpson never names the ethnicity in question that Harper is supposedly pandering to: ie. Indians or Indian-Canadians or Indocanadians or, perhaps, Canadian Hindus.
Simpson mentions Chinese-Canadians and Ukrainians (hey, I'm a quarter ethnic!) and Italians and Armenians by name. But no mention of the ethnicity that spurred his "ethnic politics" rant.
Leaving aside my bemusement at the view that politicians paying attention to the concerns of one ethnic group is somehow distasteful, while paying attention to the concerns of a particular income level or province or gender or sexuality or public transit users is not: Can the demands for an inquiry into the Air India tragedy be compared to the demands of Armenian-Canadians for an acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide or Chinese-Canadians for Head Tax remuneration? Is Air India a fair example of what they call "ethnic politics" (what is really just part of the old-age practice of coalition building)?
I think it's different. Very different. When the white families of the victims of some tragedy (Walkerton, Polytechnique) demand an inquiry and the government agrees, do we consider that "ethnic politics"? No. But families of the Air India victims looking for answers to the death of their loved ones? Ethnics making ethnic demands. When the government responds it's "ethnic politics."
What we're talking about the largest terrorist attack before September 11, 2001. 280 Canadian citizens died. We've had inquiries into the blood system, the treatment of female prisoners at Kingston prison, the pepper-spraying of protesters... But not into Air India. Cuz nobody but an ethnic cares about the CSIS's mishandling of the case or the fact that only one person has been convicted and for a measly five years in the biggest mass murder in Canadian history or the fact that a crucial witness was assassinated under police protection just 8 years ago. Right? Finding out what went wrong in a terrorism investigation and trial that ended just a year ago couldn't possibly be useful in this day and age, right? There are no more extremists hiding and plotting in our midst...
If Simpson wanted to make the case that an inquiry into Air India was a bad idea, fruitless endeavour, well he should have made that argument. (Here's a Maclean's article on why an inquiry would be a good idea.)
Reducing an inquiry into Air India Flight 182 to a matter of Conservative "ethnic politics"... Well, I don't want to call Simpson racist. But, as could have and has been asked at every stage of the sordid mess, if the victims and their families were white, would his (my, your, the government's, CSIS's, the press's) reaction have been any different?