I've arrived back in Canada in the middle of an election campaign, which doesn't necessarily help with my reverse culture shock. Elections should be the time citizens feel most powerful, but I am as helpless as a the first lemming standing at the edge of the cliff. "No!" I cry to the other lemmings, "there's a 70 meter drop into a frothy ocean! Stop before we're all doomed!" But they do not heed my warning. They do not understand me because of their tiny lemming brains. Replace "lemming" with "Conservative" (or previously, "Reform") and you'll see what I'm getting at.
My electoral riding is Calgary West. It is ruled by the tyranny of the majority, their king an embarrassment to many, including members of his own party. Rob Anders is like an infection, a pustule waiting to burst and spread green goo all over the country. There are two reasons he is elected time and again: he is in the Conservative Party, and he is kept tightly muzzled by them thus lowering his profile in the media.
My mother used to say you could put a Reform sign on the dog and she would win, and no doubt do a better job than Anders. This is because many westerners voted Reform/Conservative based on the fact that it's some sort of "western" party. Oh, nevermind the fact that many of their beliefs and policies go directly against what many Canadians (westerners included) actually want. Rob Anders takes the Conservative party to right wing extremes that would even shock Americans. I know because I polled a total of one (my boyfriend) and he was shocked. But this doesn't seem to matter because Alberta is so anti-liberal and so anti-NDP (and don't even get me started on their views of Québec) that Anders is elected time and again.
Most are familiar with his refusal in the House of Commons to allow Nelson Mandela honorary Canadian citizenship. After calling Mandela a left-wing terrorist (seriously), his party must have kidnapped him and locked him in a basement because he's managed to keep a fairly low profile since. This week, however, they let him out for a playdate whereupon he managed to make two outrageously offensive comments in one. While speaking with a local lawyer and humanitarian, Anders stated that he personally thought Canada's diplomacy should focus on converting others' language to English, and to spread Christianity as an international religion.
I honestly don't know which remark angers me more. As a multilingual Canadian, my blood boils at the thought of English language imperialism for political purposes. Where does Anders think he lives? This is Canada. We have 2 official languages, as well as many Native languages from people who were here long before Anders oozed out of the primordial political slime. Not to mention our multicultural society, and the languages that new citizens bring with them. And as someone who loves to travel and experience new cultures (with varying religions) I am disgusted and frightened by his views on spreading Christianity. Who does he think he is, George W. Bush?
I was unfortunate enough to meet Rob Anders about 8 years ago at a candidates forum at the Varsity Community centre. He had a limp handshake and a permanent shiny dampness to his face. I asked him a question about his views on French immersion and he (predictably) snaked his way around the issue. But perhaps the people of Calgary West are changing THEIR views somewhat because Anders seems afraid to go to forums nowadays.
It makes me want to revoke my citizenship. I am routinely embarrassed to tell other Canadians I come from Alberta. Sometimes I lie and say I am from Montréal (which admitedly sounds more exotic anyway). My parents have now moved to Victoria, and I live abroad more often than not (ironically my next adventure will be teaching English in Korea). But I keep my registration in Calgary West because I feel I owe it to the other lemmings to try and stop them. And if Anders ever does manage to spread his twisted version of Canadian diplomacy I can always marry Boyfriend and become American. At least their international reputation can't get any worse.
For more on Anders' recent remarks (and his side of the story which includes a fervent defense of his donations to Buddhist-run charities), see http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=d86e4039-dd77-49ac-886e-2111e4cd35b9
There is actually a (small) group of educated people dedicated to ousting him. To vote him out go to www.voteoutanders.com