While Canadian party leaders prepared for the French language debate on Thursday and carefully calibrated their niqab messaging, Pope Francis met with President Obama, supped with the homeless, and addressed the U.S. Congress in Washington.
Urging legislators to act boldly on climate change, refugees and inequality, he said, "You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless pursuit of the common good. For this is the chief aim of all politics.”
With that, the Pope departed for New York, preparing to speak Friday at the largest gathering of global heads of state ever assembled at the U.N. And probably in history.
President Xi Jinping arrived in Washington on the Pope's heels to announce China’s commitment to cap carbon emissions and price greenhouse gas emissions. Two months in advance of the upcoming Paris climate summit, the world’s largest carbon emitters are taking action.
Canada is not there.
In the capitals of Europe, leaders strain mightily to cope with a humanitarian crisis of unimaginable magnitude as one of the largest refugee migrations in human history pours onto its shores, while Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt somehow absorb 4 million more of the displaced.
Canada's role is insignificant.
Meanwhile in Montreal, during the Thursday’s debate, federal party leaders feuded bitterly about what a handful of minority women can put on their heads at citizenship ceremonies. This took all of five minutes of the debate, but was the main event. Later, media pundits ranked the confidence and inspiration value of their performances, as well as the importance of the niqab to voters. Which apparently is high.
Countless hours and days will now be spent by Canadian media dissecting the influence of the niqab debate on the outcome of Canada's federal election.
Of course the truth is that nobody cared a fig about citizenship ceremonies until some focus-group maestro stumbled over a perfect race nugget to burnish into the finest political gold. This whole affair is coldly calculated by the Conservatives as a divisive emotional flashpoint that manipulates the national media into weeks of coverage.
And so it came to pass that, while world leaders gather to address the most serious issues facing humanity, the Prime Minister of Canada's priority is Muslim headgear. This from a man who, until mere weeks ago, apparently hadn't a clue what his chief of staff and principal secretary did with their time. Or cheque-books.
At least now Canadians have something to distract them from any pangs of conscience over that poor little boy on the beach. Whatever his name was. Anyway, we're over that.
Welcome to the little leagues, Canada. You'll fit right in.