By Sandeep Chauhan
Jason Kenney ought to love Charlie Sheen. Kenney and his office pulled a boner of a move with their fundraising letter targeting “very ethnic” communities, but it’s getting buffered a bit by Charlie’s shtick.
I should probably be outraged, but I’m not. I should be shocked, but again I’m not. I just hope that Minister Kenney notes the irony of his own statement: “Canadians value their citizenship. It is not something to be bought and sold with the help of crooked consultants.”
Kenney and his office are under fire this week for using government letterhead to fundraise to place ads in so-called “ethnic” ridings, mostly South Asian communities in the super city and Burnaby-Douglas on the coast. Like something out of the BBC TV show “Yes, Minister,” in addition to being delivered to Conservative MPs, the letter was dropped off at the office of the NDP’s Linda Duncan.
Is being targeted – even ostensibly in a somewhat favorable way – insulting? Of course it is. I can only imagine what my own “very ethnic” people are wondering: are we only “kinda ethnic” since we live in Nanaimo?
Is it racist? Yes it is, but that doesn’t mean I think Kenney and the staff in his office are racist. Below, my man Jay Smooth breaks down how to identify what people say as racist versus calling people racist.
What we’re seeing is a form of institutionalized racism. Identifying the “other” (or if you prefer, the “very ethnic”) and politically mobile ridings as a method for political gain. But let’s not just bash the Conservatives for this – the Liberals and the NDP do it all the time too. Both parties rely heavily on their minority supporters, not to mention the fact that the Conservatives can’t shake the racist tag from their brand. (I’m not sure where the Bloc fits in since I never see their ads.)
Fact is that in this country there will always be “very ethnic” communities, not just because of the insular nature of new immigrants, but also because there tends to be a political and financial stake in identifying people as such. It’s not shocking, it’s just cynical.