Larry, Larry, Larry, what have you done?
You certainly haven’t done Canada’s reputation as a peace-loving, tolerant and inclusive country any favours; that’s if it ever really had such a reputation, except in the mind and imagination of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and his ilk.
I confess I, for example, have indulged myself right here in this space often enough in such possibly wishful thinking. I’ve said Canada is still a work in progress, but it works: it has become in just the past 50 years or so perhaps this troubled world’s best example of a country where people of every different racial, religious, and cultural background can live together in peace.
And, like Trudeau said just last week in a speech in Toronto, that’s important for the world, as well as Canada. It proves there’s hope at this critical time in world history when the extremes of religious, cultural and racial intolerance are threatening to tear the world apart as never before.
I read the transcript of Trudeau’s speech about how he believes the tolerant, inclusive nature of Canadian society and its democracy has become an integral part of our identity as a country. And that’s despite terrible mistakes that were made when the country was far less tolerant and inclusive, when people of certain races and cultures were treated badly by the dominant white culture.
But as I read a nagging worry kept coming to mind: maybe it’s an illusion, maybe Canada isn’t anywhere near as tolerant even now as some of us would like to think. Maybe an undercurrent of racial and cultural intolerance that has long run through “traditional” Canadian society culture persists.
Then Tuesday just after noon, a little later than usual, I Googled my daily check of news headlines.
I was certainly surprised, to say the least, to see Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller’s name right at the top, in the space normally reserved for the biggest, national or international breaking news of the day.
It just took a moment to find out what it was about: all the coverage from the various news media sources from across the country understandably focused on the most inflammatory and controversial of Miller’s comments on last Monday morning’s CFOS phone-in show.
Those words don’t need to be repeated here. By now, unless you live on the far side of the moon, everybody in Canada has read or heard them – yes, audio versions were abundant – or at least heard of them. And it’s no doubt fair to say, lots of people the world over now know what a Canadian parliamentarian, a member of the country’s governing Conservative Party, had to say.
I’m sure Miller regrets his mistake, and maybe not just for political reasons. He issued a somewhat less than abject apology for his “inappropriate” comments. But he also reiterated his view, and the view of the Conservative government, “that anyone being sworn in as a new citizen of our country must uncover their face.”
By Tuesday he had gone to ground and was not giving interviews, or so every media report I read said. That tells me our local MP was distressed and perhaps in a certain amount of shock himself about what he had unleashed.
As troubling as what Miller himself said, were the many intolerant, hateful comments on-line expressing support for what he said, and even the “blunt” way he said it.
To err is human, indeed. We all make mistakes. I’ve made my share. All we can do is apologize, sincerely, and take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the mistake; not just so we don’t make the same mistake again, but to grow and become a better person.
I can’t say I’m any kind of expert on the subject of Larry Miller’s personality. But rightly or wrong, I have the impression the blunt-talking Miller is a stubborn sort of man who may not find it easy to swallow his pride and admit he did something wrong. If I’m right, that’s too bad, because there’s no shame in admitting your mistakes. It’s actually a sign of strength.
What he said Monday morning on the radio, in public, was, and remains, serious, troubling stuff. It’s more than “inappropriate.” It’s just plain wrong. And it begs more than a couple of terse sentences in a
news release. It needs the man himself to step forward and say, upon reflection, how he really feels about what he said.
I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here, Larry. I have a feeling you maybe feel like you let yourself and your constituents down. Don’t take comfort from all those dubious expressions of support coming your way. They’re wrong. We have no future as a country, or as a world, if we can’t find ways to reach out to each other for better understanding and mutual tolerance.
It won’t be easy. For a lot of us it will almost certainly mean breaking new mental and emotional ground. But we have to do it for the sake of future generations.
Somewhere in your heart of hearts I believe you must know that, Larry.
By all means correct me if I’m wrong.
Originally published in The Sun Times in 2015.