It is becoming clear that Poilievre has no regard for our sacred institutions and Canadian values

Gerry ChidiacThe great African American writer Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre raised some Canadians’ ire recently when the Speaker of the House, Greg Fergus, expelled him from the House of Commons for using non-parliamentary language. He called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s drug policies “wacko.” As an isolated incident, this would not be too concerning, especially since Trudeau’s behaviour was not significantly better. However, Poilievre’s disregard for Canadian values and tradition extends far beyond the House of Commons.

I am a progressive and have generally been represented by parliamentarians I would consider conservative. I have not had a problem with this. I have always found them congenial, helpful, and, at worst, willing to agree to disagree.

This is how our Canadian democracy functions. The person elected normally belongs to a particular political party and holds particular views, but they serve all residents of their constituency.

Pierre Poilievre canadian values
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I live in Prince George, British Columbia. The constituencies in northern BC are geographically enormous, but two of them meet in Prince George. They have both been Conservative strongholds for decades. The two Members of Parliament, Bob Zimmer and Todd Doherty, share a downtown office. I have resided in both ridings and am on a first-name basis with both MPs. Their staff members, both in Prince George and Ottawa, have always treated me with the utmost respect.

The atmosphere in the local constituency office has changed significantly recently, and I don’t believe it is because of the current Israel-Palestine issue. Zimmer is extremely pro-Israel. I advocate for the human rights of all people in the region. We were still able to sit down over coffee and discuss the issue. My dialogues with Doherty primarily involved advocating for Indigenous rights in Canada, and I found him to be very open-minded and collaborative. Since Poilievre has become the leader of the Conservative Party, staff members remain congenial, but both Doherty and Zimmer have become inaccessible.

Shortly after Israel began its assault on Gaza, there were numerous sit-ins at constituency offices across Canada. One can understand that MPs were concerned about the well-being of their staff members and briefly locked their offices. Shortly after, a very kind and diverse group of people, primarily women, made up of a minister and other Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and even a former member of the Israeli Defense Force, began gathering weekly for what they called “knit-ins” at Doherty and Zimmer’s office in Prince George. They not only shared information with their MPs regarding the crisis in Gaza, but they also shared their knitting and baking with the office staff. They were able to do this until the constituency office closed for the Christmas break.

In January, the “knit-in ladies” were locked out of the constituency office. They were given vague and unclear reasoning for this action. They were told that only those with appointments were allowed to enter, but when they tried to make appointments, their phone calls were not returned, or their requests were denied. Given the positive relationship that Zimmer and Doherty have built in the region, one has to wonder why there has been a change in attitude.

Was this a direct order from Pierre Poilievre?

Canadians cherish their parliamentary democracy. We value respectful dialogue, the right to protest, law and order, and our reputation on the international stage. It is becoming clear that Pierre Poilievre has no regard for these sacred institutions. He is showing us who he is; we need to believe him.

Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages and genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.

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