On October 11, Thomas Mulcair, in association with Concordia’s Political Science Students Association, explored the threat that democracy faces within a “xenophobic and fascist” political climate. In response to society’s general complacency, the former NDP leader encouraged students to become a “solid, strong, and reasoned voice” advocating for change.
“Students don’t see politics as needing their involvement,” Mulcair noted, in reference to declining voter turnout amongst young people. In fact, he believes that students are needed more than ever to advocate for human rights worldwide.
Mulcair referred to freedom of expression, a fundamental right guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as being jeopardized by Quebec’s Premier-Elect, Francois Legault. Legault, who will assume office on October 18, has declared his intention to invoke the notwithstanding clause to prohibit civil servants from wearing religious symbols, such as hijabs.
Should a woman who’s been teaching math for the last 20 years lose her job for wearing a [hijab]?
Mulcair, who often asks this question of CAQ supporters, is typically relieved that most respond by saying “no.” However, he was outraged by the response of Geneviève Guilbault, a current member of the National Assembly, who when asked the same question essentially said otherwise.
Mulcair believes this policy encourages Islamophobia and is only one example of anti-Islam legislation that has been enacted in recent years.
He also touched on attitudes towards Muslims worldwide, specifically those in Poland and Hungary. Mulcair referenced the actions of Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who publicly refused the European Commission’s refugee resettlement quota, classifying Syrian refugees as “Muslim Invaders”, and refusing to accept any of the 2000 allotted asylum seekers.
[Poland and Hungary] are completely renouncing the basic tenets of western values, when it comes to respecting people’s rights … it’s a dire situation.
When addressing these repeated attacks on democracy, Mulcair questioned why there has been such minimal public opposition. Whether we’ve become “numb” or are simply unsure of how to respond, Mulcair insisted that more must be done to have an impact. He stressed the importance of protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority, referring specifically to the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar, and stressed that a concerted effort must be made to oppose the far-right movement of fascism plaguing the globe, in countries like Brazil and the Philippines.
At a time when infringements on human rights have become more and more common, Mulcair posed a call to action for students and the general public, stressing that more emphasis must be placed on speaking out against despots and oppressive ideals to further democracy, not repeal it.