Families Need To Come Together And Support Canadian Values

I’ve linked to an adorable puppy video in this post, but you’re going to have to read it to find the link.

***UPDATED WITH REPLY FROM MY MOM: A couple days ago I wrote about reconnecting with my Mom, and shared the letter I had written in the hope it might serve as an example. When my Mom wrote back, I was genuinely moved. With her permission, I’ve shared her response below.

Hi Brian — I don’t know where to start. Perhaps best to put your mind at rest first. Yes, I’m on board. I’ll join the conservative party and I’ll vote. Please tell me voting is done on line and that I don’t have to attend a leadership convention. I don’t mind if you share any or all of what you’ve written and there isn’t anything you need omit on my account. Would it also be safe to assume that you won’t mind if I forward your email to some of my friends?
Seeing you look at the world through a lens of love and compassion (if those are the right words) instead of hate and anger makes me incredibly proud of you. I agree we are on the verge of a dark chapter in history, and love will be the only effective tool to fight it. I’ve been on my own journey lately, trying to be more present and more mindful. Shutting down the story telling mind is not easy. But it’s what has to happen in order to see what really is versus what we perceive it to be. I truly believe this will lead to a more peaceful and joyful existence. If you’re getting that figured out 25 or so years ahead of me, I’m very happy for you.
I’m also happy and proud that you seem to have found a purpose in life, something you care passionately about, something that is bigger than yourself and something that looks to making the world a better place. I don’t think many people ever find that.
Look forward to hearing back from you.
Love, Mom

Here’s the email I wrote to prompt that response.

Hey Mom,

This isn’t a combative email (in fact it’s the exact opposite of that!) but it is a long email because the feelings I’m working through right now… there are a lot of them. There’s a lot I need to say. Before I get to that, I need you to see and absorb this image. I’m sorry about how unpleasant it is.

​This isn’t doctored up. This has been substantiated by multiple sources at the University of Pennsylvania. This is real. This is happening right now in different forms all over the USA.

Literally millions of people are scared for their lives as a result of things like this, and you might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. If you’ve seen enough to understand that, I don’t need to pile on, but if you want to understand more about why so many people are so scared this week, there are people doing good work documenting everything that’s happening. These stories, particularly the ones involving kids, are heartbreaking.

I was hopeful on Tuesday night when Trump said it was time to bind the divisions he ripped open during the campaign, but he’s done nothing to halt the unprecedented wave of hate crimes against people of colour, Muslims, and people in the LGBTQ community since he was elected. Nothing is stopping Trump from seizing this opportunity to extend an olive branch, to insist that violence is unacceptable, to demonstrate leadership of the people he’s going to be responsible for in a few weeks. He has been silent. Honestly, I was never that hopeful. Also honestly? I believe he said the exact right things on Tuesday night. It appeared that he recognized the obligation he now faces — to make things better for all Americans. I know I’m not the only one who opposed him that was willing to give him a chance, willing to keep an open mind… but every person hurt in his name while he says nothing is his responsibility, and his continuing failure to act is destroying the trust people were willing to give him.

You and I and all our family in the States can safely ignore this. We’re not going to be hurt by it. But we have to recognize that whatever choice was made on Tuesday, there is now a second choice everyone has to make. No opt-outs, no third-party candidates, just one very simple up-or-down question: Do we consent to the hate crimes being carried out in Donald Trump’s name, or not?

There are people in our lives who now fear for their safety, and to ensure the safety of themselves and their families, they must assume that anyone not speaking out against this wave of hatred either supports it or doesn’t care enough to help if they’re ever targeted. I don’t know if apathy is worse, but it doesn’t really matter. The main takeaway is that if you stay silent, you are sending a message to people in your life who could really use your support right now, and the message you’re sending is this: I am not a person you can trust to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Consent or speak out. There are no other options on the table, there are people in all our lives who are watching to see how we choose to deal with this new reality, and not to embellish things, but it really does feel like one of those “right/wrong side of history” questions.

I wanted to reassure myself that this could never happen in Canada, but it is happening in Canada in the form of Kellie Leitch’s candidacy for CPC leadership. This is happening right now, and if we don’t act it’s going to be the subject of our next federal election, at which point our ability to influence the outcome goes way down. I believe in Canada, but I also believed in Britain and the USA this year, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t think belief is enough.

That’s why I’ve spent the better part of today writing this letter. This must not happen in Canada, I can’t stop it alone, and I need your help. Thankfully, it’s a pretty small ask in the grand scheme of things.

If you told me over dinner last month I would be asking you to join the Conservative Party of Canada to vote in their leadership elections because the candidacy of Kellie Leitch is a potentially existential threat to our democracy… I would have laughed at how preposterous it sounds. And yet, here we are. Here’s what I’ve come to understand since we last spoke:

About 10% of Americans voted in the primary that was a prerequisite to Donald Trump becoming president, and he won that primary by calculating how to get 4 in 10 of those primary voters to back him unconditionally. The opinions of the other 96%, even though every previous candidate has appeared to care about them, turned out to be irrelevant. That’s an interesting new wrinkle to politics. We’re also learning that there’s a corollary to that: if that’s how you get on the ballot, the nature of our politics and the relatively few parties we have mean that party leaders, with all the media attention they get, normalize the attitudes and behaviours of the very small subset of the population that got them there.

That’s not inherently bad. Justin Trudeau was chosen Liberal leader by a little less than 1% of Canada’s population, and I’m not aware of anyone, even conservative friends of mine, who believes that he threatens the basic values of our political discourse.

Left to its own devices, the Conservative party leadership is going to be decided by an even smaller number, maybe 1/3 of 1% of the Canadian people. That’s how many people are so passionate about their team that they pay for memberships, and in Kellie Leitch they’re being offered a candidate who embraces Trump’s ideas on screening for Canadian values, which is nothing more than coded racism. We caught it last year when it was the Barbaric Cultural Practices snitch line, which she announced. After the CPC lost and she gave a teary apology about it, you would think she’d understand that it’s a third rail. Her current actions demonstrate that what she learned wasn’t that these ideas have no place in Canadian Politics, only that they need to be normalized first.

In a broad field of candidates with relatively low stakes to stay in the game, all Kellie Leitch has to do to win is get the unconditional support of a small plurality, then coast on the momentum of being one of the frontrunners. And she is one of the frontrunners, if not the favourite. She’s raised the most money, gets a ton of free media coverage, and she invokes Trump when her audience has just seen Trump pull off the most shocking political upset of our lifetimes.

We need to stop Canada from starting down a path that has endangered people and made them fear for their safety in every other country that has let this kind of shit get a national audience. Maybe I’m overreacting, but the cost of overreaction is negligible and I feel a moral responsibility not to underreact now that I’ve seen what can happen if I do.

This isn’t about screwing the Conservative party, it’s about improving the Conservative party, and it may sound crazy for someone who has spent hundreds of hours volunteering for the Liberals to say that, but here are the questions I’ve been asking myself lately.

Would it be better for our country if you could articulate constructive conservative ideas without being dismissed out of hand as a racist?

Would it be better for our country if Justin Trudeau had to improve his party’s offering every election instead of coasting on the support of people like me?

Would it be better for our country to change “Canada had a female Prime Minister, but she was appointed, not elected, and her first election as party leader was the most sweeping loss ever seen in Canadian politics” to “Canada has elected a female Prime Minister”?

(Not that I’m convinced Lisa Raitt is the best option, but I don’t worry about a Canada where she’s leading the CPC.)

And lastly, wouldn’t it be great to come together with your son around a common cause so that we can grab a beer next May and talk about how awesome it is that we set our differences aside to stop something horrible from happening?

The answer to all these questions is yes, isn’t it? Aren’t these the kind of Canadian Values we should come together around? Okay. Let’s make this happen.

On Thursday I terminated my membership in the Liberal Party of Canada. I’m joining the Conservatives and voting for principled candidates who want the next election to be fought on the field of who’s got the best ideas to move this country forward.

It would mean the world if you joined me to work on this, and all it takes is $15 for a party membership and the time to vote. If you can pass this idea on to your friends and colleagues, that would be even better. There’s a more generalized version of the appeal here if you’d like to pass it on.

I posted that yesterday and it’s already the most-read blog post I’ve ever written. People have been writing me to say they’re on board. I think this can turn into a real thing, because it doesn’t have to get massive to have a massive impact… we just need to be the biggest subset of a tiny fraction of the Canadian people. We can swing this thing.

This week, I’ve come to understand in a way I hadn’t before that anger is a hell of a drug. I’ve indulged in the past. I’ve said and done things I regret, things that have hurt people. Things that have hurt you. And thanks to the result in the US, every hour now, I see new cases of people indulging their anger and committing acts of racial and religious cruelty that are completely counter-productive to the notion of a great America. I can’t escape the evidence that a dark chapter in human history is coming if people don’t stand up and fight for their beliefs. People have to fight back against this hate, and the only thing that consistently beats hate is love.

That line’s a lift from a Jim Jeffries special, and it really resonates with me these days. While everyone else is raging incoherently at each other in the comments section, it feels good to tell someone live-streaming a protest “Stay safe. Tomorrow’s another day and it needs you present.” as I watch riot police roll up in Portland. It feels incredible to be super-nice and patient with people who are getting meaner and meaner in an attempt to set me off, only to leave them hanging with “I’m not interested in insulting anybody. I just felt it was important to share a different perspective. Have a good one.”

It gives me great satisfaction to know that the transcript is showing them to be the asshole and that I’m not going let them pin their emotional wounds on me. If I didn’t genuinely believe it was important to step in and highlight a different perspective, it would feel petty, but I 100% believe in what I’m doing now for the first time in a long time, so it doesn’t.

Conducting myself this way feels like winning, and it’s been a vital source of joy in my life at a time when that’s been in short supply. This moment in history has presented us with an opportunity to change things, and if we seize it together, we win big and we win in a way that has a tangible positive impact on our world. We win at defining the kind of politics we want to have in this country, not for ourselves, but for the people who will be marginalized and threatened if we don’t act. The game is on. This leadership contest is happening whether we get involved or not. I hope you’ll join me and encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same.


PS: I know this was a lot for one email. Enjoy this basket of puppies.

I hope that reading this made you feel a little better about the world. I also hope it inspires you to act, and I’ve written a piece on what you can do to help. It would mean a lot to me, and I think it’d do a lot of good, if you took a moment to pass this along by sharing it with everyone in your life who you think might get something out of it.