Two of Canada’s closest allies in the Western world – the United States and France – while democratic countries, have decidedly different political and social philosophies.
Yet both are struggling with how to deal with other cultures as our borders become less restrictive.
In the U.S., a growing number of people this past year have voiced the desire to keep out so-called foreigners, latching on to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s voiced derision of Mexican immigrants and his call to “temporarily” ban Muslims from entering the country.
In France, elected officials have enacted a ‘burkini ban,’ with police officers challenging and fining Muslim women who choose the covered-up swimsuits instead of so-called appropriate “secular” beachwear, while other beachgoers reportedly cheer officers and jeer the women.
All Canada can do is try to show a good example.
It’s no coincidence that both the U.S. and France have been the targets of terrorist attacks on domestic soil and abroad, and it’s clear that this has influenced the current surge of intolerance.
But it would be twisting logic to suggest that the latest moves represent anything other than xenophobia.
In the U.S., there is still time for the majority to reject such dangerous views.
In the case of France, we can only politely suggest that the ban – and the heavy-handed actions of police in enforcing it – are unbecoming a society that has long celebrated acceptance.
The argument has been made that banning the ‘burkini’ is an attempt to empower Muslim women who are being told what to wear by the male leaders of their religion.
But how empowering is it to have government and police, instead, dictating their attire?
There are very complicated civil liberties issues involved here, and attitudes that – however odious we may believe them to be – will not change at the stroke of a pen on a government edict.
It is evident that in France – the land of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – a line has been crossed. One does not defend liberty by violating it.
The very old maxim holds true – two wrongs still do not add up to one right.