Is Stephen Harper off his rocker? Forget the Canadian Prime Minister’s trip to Jerusalem last year, when he said that criticism of Israel was a “mask” for anti-Semitism. Ignore his utter failure to bring home to Canada Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, whose retrial was staged by the Egyptian government to give him the chance to leave for his country of adoption.Cast aside his Blair-like contention that the Islamist murders of Canadian soldiers had nothing to do with his decision to send Canada’s F-18 jets against ISIS.
Now Mr Harper, the man whose pro-Israeli policies might win him a seat in the Knesset, is about to push a truly eccentric piece of legislation through in Ottawa. It’s called – and I urge readers to repeat the words lest they think it’s already April Fool’s Day – the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”. Yup, when I first read the phrase I felt sure it was a joke, a line from a Channel 4 mocu-drama about Nigel Farage’s first premiership.
Nope. It’s all real. But let me quickly explain that the “barbaric cultural practices” in question are polygamy, “gender-based” family violence, “honour” killing and forcing children under 16 to leave Canada for marriages abroad.
I’ve no problem with legislation against this, of course. Nor have most Canadians. I’m also against illegally invading foreign countries, colonising other people’s land, waterboarding, bombing wedding parties or firing drone missiles into Waziristan villages. But these aren’t quite the barbaric cultural practices Mr Harper has in mind.
What’s odd about the “barbarism” he’s thinking about is that these practices are already forbidden by Canadian law. Polygamy is illegal in Canada (although Mormon polygamists in British Columbia appear strangely untouched by the new legislation); and Canadians were a bit nonplussed to learn from their government last week that there are “hundreds” of polygamists in their country. As for “honour” killing, murder is murder in Canada as in Britain, the US and almost every other country in the world…