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Adam Radwanski

Jason Kenney's mixed messages Add to ...

If Helen Kennedy is accurately describing her conversation with Jason Kenney, it suggests an unfortunate pattern in the way the Immigration Minister communicates.

Late last year, as Chris Selley very effectively chronicled, Kenney adopted what could generously be described as a dual message track on the government's decision to stop funding the religious charity KAIROS.

Speaking at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, Kenney linked the denial of funding to KAIROS's "leadership role" in boycotting Israel. Then, a couple of weeks later, he wrote a letter to the Toronto Star stating that while he "disagree[s]with the nature of KAIROS's militant stand toward the Jewish homeland," the decision not to fund it was made purely because it didn't "meet CIDA's current priorities, such as increased food aid."

It was a classic case of the minister trying to have it both ways - ostensibly taking a stand on something, even taking credit for it, and then backing away when he was called on it.

Now, we seem to have another case of telling people what they want to hear.

By Helen Kennedy's account, Kenney told Egale Canada that gay rights had been "overlooked" in Canada's new citizenship guide. But gay rights weren't overlooked - they were, as CP reports, explicitly removed from an early draft on Kenney's instructions.

That decision may be interpreted as a reflection of Kenney's own views. It may have been a sop to a contingent of his party's support base. But whatever it was, it wasn't an accident - which, again assuming that Kennedy is accurately representing her private conversation, is how Kenney portrayed it to people upset about it.

Nor, for that matter, could the decision really have been made just to avoid the guide becoming "encyclopedic," as Kenney's spokesman claimed. We're talking about potentially just a few sentences, in a 63-page guide.

I'll confess that I strongly disagree with Kenney's views on this subject, and with his spokesman's suggestion that gay rights just weren't important enough to make the cut. Considering that discrimination against gays and lesbians is actively encouraged in many of the countries immigrants come from, it strikes me as rather useful to inform them that it's illegal (and generally frowned upon) in Canada.

But if Kenney is going to lean heavily on his personal beliefs in doing his job, he should have the courage of his convictions to be up-front about it. And whatever his audience, he should be able to provide one consistent explanation for government decisions.

***

Update: Either the minister needs to have a serious talk with his staff, or he just proved my point.

 

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