Ryan Moffatt: Lots of Blame to Go Around for Crass Public Behaviour, but Legislation Is Not the Solution

May 17, 2022 Updated: May 17, 2022

Commentary

Although the profanity and hostility directed at NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh by a small group of protesters in Peterborough last week was ugly and alarming, a share of the blame must be laid at the feet of federal leaders, who have repeatedly sought political capital through divisive rhetoric.

These leaders have shown a profound lack of empathy for anyone who does not espouse their views. Justin Trudeau hurled the first stone when he labelled the vaccine hesitant as racists and misogynists. This was echoed in the government’s characterization of the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa. To use such pejoratives against one’s own citizens was an unnecessary and damaging insult that is now bearing some worrisome fruit.

Politicians are not above reproach and should be subject to the harshest of criticism when their decisions and policies fail to serve the best interests of Canadians. If nothing else, it is politicians’ job to ensure that the foundational principles of our democracy remain intact. However, after two years of lockdowns, mandates, and government control, there is a very real sense that freedom and moral democracy are  eroding at an unprecedented rate.

Can’t Legislate This Away

As a result of the incident with Singh, there is now talk of crafting legislation to curb protests. But the temptation to legislate this away and place further constraints around protesting will do nothing but stoke the flames of division and anger that are growing ever more volatile.

Legislation will not restore public confidence or alter the opinions of the disenfranchised. Like the Emergencies Act, it would be an unnecessarily heavy-handed approach to a problem that could be solved through honest and earnest dialogue—the kind sorely missing  from public discourse these days.

Any utopian visions entertained by the political elite will not be realized by further restricting  freedom of expression. It will only drive the unheard further underground, where they will become more dangerous and aggressive in their tactics. This is not what a post-pandemic Canada needs.

Moral High Ground

There is a moral high ground that is up for grabs. Not the self-aggrandizing, virtue signalling that currently passes for morality, but a principled, humble, and broad-minded approach to leadership.

Politicians need to raise the standard in their discourse instead of reverting to the lowest common denominator of pejorative and insult. It is tiresome and disingenuous, and fractures the country by creating division where there is none. Politicians have been using this divide-and-conquer tactic for short-term political gain and they are now seeing the ugly consequences of this ploy. The groundswell of anger has begun to turn dark, as Singh can attest to.

Canadians do not want to feel like they are part of a divided nation, deceived into thinking that our enemies are living among us. They want to be unified, strong, and free. Canadians need moral and sincere leadership that coaxes the best from its citizens. The politician who can listen, without reproach, to the concerns of their constituents, and admit fault instead of cast blame, will endear themselves to the broad segment of middle-ground Canadians hungry for a positive, unified vision of their country

Citizens should avoid the temptation of sinking to crass insults and untethered emotion, but instead rely on rational argument, while keeping a good-natured insistence on their right to free speech. They will gain the sympathy and endorsement of their fellow countrymen and disempower the politicians who feed off the type of overly emotional and irrational hostility aimed at Singh. Vitriol only entrenches the opposition and justifies their position.

It is the responsibility of every citizen to elevate their own ethical behaviour, but it is the sacred duty of the politicians to set an example by embodying the founding ethical principles of the democracy they have inherited.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Ryan Moffatt
Ryan Moffatt is a journalist based in Vancouver.