At what point, in politics, do you feel that – in your heart, in your bones?
On what morning do you get up, and go into the bathroom, and look in the mirror, and wonder who belongs to the face that is staring back at you?
That day when you stand at the luggage carousel in Ottawa or some town, your face buried in your device, pretending to be reading something important, because you‘re hoping that no one recognizes you.
The day when you are stooped with shame, when your chest is full of self-loathing, when you realize – at long last – that you have become what you came to Ottawa to stop. To end.
That moment of shame came on Monday, this week. You sent out Marc Garneau – the former astronaut whose name is on the side of some schools in Canada, but whose name should now be chiseled off – to recite a statement, like it was a ransom note. In which he, and you, refused to call genocide by its name.
Which is genocide.
These are the things we, and you, know: the Chinese dictatorship is engaged in acts of genocide against the Uighurs, the Muslim minority in China. It is the largest act of genocide against a religious minority since the Holocaust. You know this.
You know, too, about the concentration camps. The forced sterilization of Muslim women. The torture. The beatings. The enslavement. The organ harvesting. The state-administered abortions. The removal of children from their parents, to be sent away forever.
You know about all of that. You know about other things: the three million who have been detained. The thousands of places of worship that have been reduced to ruins. The state-sanctioned murders.
You know about those things. You’ve seen the reports, written by your own people. And here is what you did about it.
You did nothing at all. You just sent Garneau out, his features suffused with guilt, to bleat some meaningless words.
The government of Canada, he bleated, was “deeply disturbed by horrific reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang, including the use of arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilization.”
And: “The government of Canada will continue to work with international partners To defend vulnerable minorities.”
Except, well, you don’t. You haven’t. In particular, you don’t “defend vulnerable minorities.”
You just leave them to die.
He was abstaining, said Garneau, on behalf of you. He was abstaining “on behalf of the government of Canada.”
And there, as in so many things, you are wrong. Because, while Marc Garneau’s profile in cowardice represented you, it did not represent us. It did not speak for the people of Canada.
Nor your Liberal caucus, as it turned out. All of them – every one of them – voted to condemn China’s indisputable crimes against the humanity called the Uighurs. It was a vote against you, too.
In our not-distant past, we made Nelson Mandela an honorary citizen of this country. We also did that for Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who was murdered for saving the lives of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
That’s what we do, here in Canada. We don’t have nuclear weapons. We don’t have big guns. We don’t have much of an army, thanks to you.
But what we – we the Canadian people – have is this: our voices. We raise our voices when the world is spinning off its axis, towards the Ninth Circle of Hell. As it is in northwestern China, right now. As it is for the powerless people called the Uighurs.
Canada raises its voice at such moments in history. It’s how we are measured. It’s what we are.
You aren’t one of us. You are a sad, pitiful man-boy, one who did not speak up on the one day when it mattered.
You are the one who is covered, forevermore, in shame.