Tory values?

This being a country currently run by Conservatives, I figured I’d write this one for them. I’m a liberal, and a Liberal, but I thought I’d give it a shot. Here goes.

I define a liberal as someone who believes in protection of citizens by government. A conservative, on the other hand, is someone who wants citizens to be protected from government.

Conservatives believe in liberty and in freedom. They don’t believe those things come from governments. They believe those things are taken away by governments.

I have a slightly more benign view of government. But, since I wanted to write for a conservative audience, I looked around and I found some pretty good quotes. They were about what a conservative is and what freedom is, and they were words spoken by former prime minister John Diefenbaker. Around my house, we held Dief in pretty high regard. When he died in 1979, in fact, I remember my dad crying – even though he was a Liberal like me.

Here’s what the giant of Canadian conservatism said: “Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.”

If you were to ask Diefenbaker’s ideological heirs if they still believe those words, they wouldn’t hesitate. They, the Stephen Harper folks, would say yes. They’d say that is the credo by which they live, still.

And I’d say: “Tell that to Awish Aslam.”

Awish, as you undoubtedly know by now, is a University of Western Ontario student. She’s doesn’t look very scary. Maybe a hundred pounds, soaking wet. She wears a veil – she’s religious, apparently – and she isn’t white.

Last Sunday, she and a friend went to a Conservative Party rally in London, Ont. They signed up to attend the rally with the assistance of the friend’s father, who is a Conservative supporter. About 30 minutes after their arrival, a party organizer carrying a clipboard asked the pair to step out to talk. A burly RCMP officer in a suit came, too.

The guy with the clipboard slipped away, and the RCMP officer suddenly ripped the nametags off the two girls. “You are no longer welcome here,” he said.

When they asked why – Awish, stunned, was crying – the Mountie said: “We know you have ties to the Liberal Party through Facebook.”

And he kicked them out.

As you’ve also no doubt heard, it turns out Awish had her picture taken with Michael Ignatieff and she put it up on Facebook. The Conservative Party or the RCMP – or both – saw that picture and decided Awish and her friend were a threat.

Now, I’m not here to plead the case of the media, who have been complaining about how they have been limited to asking five questions of Harper a day. Nor am I here to represent the interests of Ignatieff – who, having been challenged by Harper to a one-on-one debate, accepted only to see Harper chicken out shortly afterwards. The media and the Liberal leader can look after themselves.

No, I am here to try to reach conservatives, who – as no less than John Diefenbaker says – believe in freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. And, perhaps, the freedom to get your picture taken with a famous person – like kids are wont to do – and not be punished for it.

If you are a Conservative, you likely won’t be so concerned that a party official wanted to eliminate the possibility of trouble-making. Fine. But if you are a conservative, small or large c, doesn’t it worry you that the RCMP – gun-toting agents of the state – are behaving that way with a kid? Doesn’t it, in fact, make your blood run cold?

Anyway, I’m not the conservative, you are. You are the one who is supposed to be always, always against what happened to Awish Aslam.

Being a liberal, I don’t really know how a conservative thinks. But I do know one thing:

This sure as hell isn’t John Diefenbaker’s Canada, anymore.

– Kinsella is a lawyer, blogs at and will appear regularly on Sun News Network


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