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The stain of this shameful moment in Canadian journalism will never wash completely clean from the Globe and Mail and Postmedia. Not only did they tolerate the ugliest political episode in Canada's post-war era, they signed their names to it.
In the case of Postmedia newspapers across Canada, they sold their front page to it.
They can wear it now. A more ignominious betrayal of the venerable journalistic legacies entrusted to editorial writers can scarcely be imagined.
There's a special place in hell for those who would stigmatize and endanger vulnerable minority women for political gain, and there’s another one right next door for those in positions of power who enable it.
Tests of character are usually like car accidents—they come out of the blue and we react by instinct and hope for the best.
But there was nothing sudden about the endorsement question, which had been percolating for months. There was plenty of time to reflect on the human stakes of their support for the Conservatives, and there's not a shred of evidence it ever crossed their minds. (Let's not even dignify the Globe's bizarre split-endorsement with comment).
For these editors, the media are some special kind of referee: one that doesn't mind blowing the whistle from time to time, but won't call a penalty. Not even when a player should clearly be ejected from the game.
Collateral damage of a "culture war"?
At least eight Muslim women have been attacked since the beginning of this fear-mongering election campaign, most often by white males.
According to tracking conducted by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, they include a pregnant Montreal woman knocked to the ground when teenage boys grabbed her hijab, a Vancouver woman punched in the head (by another woman) at a bus stop, a Toronto mother out with her young children at a Shopper’s Drug Mart accosted and sharply elbowed, a young disabled Ottawa woman verbally attacked at a local mall, and a Toronto woman accosted in a Roots store by a man who made machine-gun shooting motions in her direction.
Yet despite heaps of coverage of at least some of these incidents and more, not a peep about any of this from the Globe and Mail’s David Walmsley, for whom such trauma would appear to be collateral damage in something he obscenely calls “culture wars.” For its part, the National Post doesn’t even mention race.
The placid sanctimony of their support for the dishonourable Conservative campaign implicates them both.
Erasing Indigenous faces from the news
At the heart of this appalling chapter is not just racial bigotry, but the special misogyny by which women of colour are erased from the political discourse, even to the endangerment of their lives and safety.
Take the Indigenous women and their supporters who bravely dogged Harper’s campaign appearances, imploring this nation to make Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and First Nations a ballot issue. The public almost never saw them, but they made sure to be present on the campaign trail. You can see them at the 12:00 mark in this must-see VICE election coverage video.
The Harper team perfected the art of keeping media cameras pointed away from Indigenous protesters, conveniently sequestered behind a chain link fence.
There is probably no more fitting metaphor for these disgraceful newspaper endorsements than the VICE video depicting a nest of network camera operators jostling for a view of Stephen Harper, their backs turned on the desperate Indigenous Canadians pressed up against a fence, pleading to make the evening news. Same as it ever was.
As this campaign stretched through the summer and into the fall, four more Canadian Indigenous women were murdered. Of those, two had gone missing, their bodies discovered weeks later.
In fact, a full 27 Canadian women were murdered during the election campaign, while Stephen Harper crossed the length and breadth of this country whipping up fear of Muslims at every whistle-stop . As his handlers dreamed up snitch-lines for turning in Muslim neighbours for barbaric cultural practices, 13 of those women were killed by their present or former partners. (Data compiled by NLFAA).
It’s doubtful that a single one of the editorial writers for the Postmedia papers or the Globe and Mail has experienced the kind of terror faced by those women in their daily lives.
They could ask 20-year-old Aboriginal mother Selena Rose Keeper how it felt to screw up her courage last May and request a protection order against her former boyfriend. He had knocked her unconscious and put her in hospital at least once, and she feared he now had access to guns. The writers could ask how it felt when the judge didn’t think her case was very serious and turned her down, leaving her to face that boyfriend on her own.
Oh, wait, they can’t. He killed her 10 days ago, when she was five months pregnant.
Nor can they ask Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk or Nathalie Warmerdam, all killed in cold blood on September 22 by a former partner released from prison. Warmerdon was chased through her house and shot in the back.
The next day, Harper announced new measures to protect Canadians from terror—from Muslims in Syria of course.
No rational media outlet could support the display that Stephen Harper just put on for Canada, topped off as it was with an appearance by a former crack-smoking, drunk-driving, racist homophobic mayor who turned Toronto into a global laughing-stock.
But that's just the comedy.
The tragedy is that, by refusing to denounce and disown Canada's most racist and misogynist election campaign in modern times, two nationally respected media institutions became its collaborators.