Stephen Harper is not my dad, but he might wish he was. It is becoming categorically apparent that helicopter parenting is all the rage in the Harper household, with its peculiar and protective restrictions against those who need Canada’s help the most. The Syrian refugee crisis is yet another black eye for a government that turns even the most simple, compassionate policy decisions into lame-duck lessons on security and protectionism.
Aggression, in subtle and direct forms, underlines all refugee policies currently presented by the Conservatives. As a Canadian Press article outlines, the Harper government seeks to accommodate a small number of refugees while maintaining public goals of anti and counter terrorism inherent to their near militaristic agenda. Harper’s patriarchal ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ approach does not only exist overtly. The goal is a “classic Conservative two-fer” – marrying a control with security, and aid with an increasingly politicized message.
Make no mistake, as Stephen wants to be a good dad! Noted in the Canadian Press article, Harper wants to appeal to female voter empathy by softening his stance on sex trafficking refugees, along with his Syrian allowances. Never mind the constant refrain that comes with any softened policy, – allow human trafficking immigrants easier asylum but increase the criminal scrutiny and the politics of aggression towards said human traffickers (not necessarily a negative, but part of a theme). Harper’s gendered aims speak to a through line in the Conservative Party’s conduct in regard to human trauma. As awful as sloganizing can be, Stevie wants the nation to stick with “Proven leadership” and return control to a dangerous sense of complacency.
The statistical reality of Canadian commitments to Syrian refugees reveals the stagnant paternalism always present in Conservative foreign policy. A Vice primer written by Jake Kivanc provides the facts: 10,000 refugees will be admitted by 2018, of which only 1000 have currently been admitted and only 600 of those migrants government sponsored. Private citizens are sponsoring forty percent of all Syrian refugee claimants in Canada, a troubling truism. These numbers fail to completely describe the humanitarian failure at work. Kivanc notes that – of course, being a god-fearing dad – Harper’s policy prioritizes religious minorities in refugee selection, almost positively pulling the region’s Christians ahead of Muslim refugees. Saving individuals in general is good, but saving refugees based on religion alone is xenophobic and emphasizes a more covert distinction. The grotesque party line is toed again and again, where Kivanc consistently lists the failings of Canadian efforts: Turkey and Lebanon each have taken over one million refugees, Conservatives are specifically against strategic evacuation arilifts, and the false panacea of military intervention ‘stabilizing’ the region. Conservative refugee policy is fundamentally at odds with humanitarianism .
The decision to avoid reality is not a new tactic for Stevie. Speaking colloquially, he’s the kind of dad to ask if you filled up the windshield wiper fluid all the while forgetting to tell you the brakes might be cut. A Stephen Marche New York Times opinion piece cuts deeper than any unsubstantial parental metaphor: “[T]he nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively.” Instead of considering the plight of any refugee, Stevie sticks to the platitudes that have so long served him. The fear-mongering gestures towards the spectre of terrorism. The religious homogenization of a nation’s immigrant class for fear of cultural difference. The focus on militarism despite his nation having a reputation as peacekeepers. When Steven Harper dreams, its is of bald eagles and Patton, not of Romeo Dallaire and diplomacy. In his dreams, trumpets are always playing, strategically and efficiently. En masse, the Conservative Party’s lack of commitment underlines a strange commitment to insolation over charity, even when the nation could provide so much more.
We are on the eve of another Canadian election, one in which the polls consistently vacillate between involved parties. The Conservatives, led by their bland father figure, are representative of the safe choice. Stevie “has to look like the adult in the room,” but he promises Marche’s “steady and quiet life, undisturbed by painful facts.” The quiet life cannot and should not be accepted. All cloying metaphors aside, the man and his party are delaying help to a most vulnerable group of the global population. This is wrong. There appears to be a disinterest in change, a stagnation of moral outrage because of the weathered quality such a leader and party can enact on a nation. Sometimes you need to disregard your parents, your paternalistic government, and even cynicism. Change requires motivation, and Stephen Harper is providing the best sort of impetus to enact some substantial alterations in Canadian government.