June 3, 2019 10:13 am

Bill Kelly: Andrew Scheer’s anti-racism speech rings hollow

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer on Tuesday, in a speech outlining his immigration plan, that his party will not accept intolerance, racism or extremism.

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It was just a few days ago that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer delivered a speech about immigration and racism that gained praise in many circles for clearly defining his party’s policy on these two controversial issues.

The fact that, in these incendiary times, the leader of one of Canada’s mainstream political parties has to convince Canadians that it does not harbour racists should be concerning, but sadly, these are the times in which we live.

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READ MORE: Scheer removes Conservative MP from Justice Committee after outlash at Muslim witness

Anyway, in that speech, Scheer said that there is no room in the Conservative party for racists and bigots.

Scheer’s anti-racist commitment was likely an attempt to blunt the criticism raised by some ethnic groups and social activists that comments from some Conservative MPs on the issues of asylum seekers and immigration may have had racist overtones.

WATCH BELOW: Conservative MP removed from Justice Committee over controversial comments

Scheer’s clear statement that he had no tolerance for intolerance and racism in his party was an attempt to quell those allegations.

Little did he know that his pronouncement would be tested, just days later, when Conservative MP Michael Cooper, a member of the Commons Justice Committee, berated a Muslim witness at the committee. Cooper said the witness should be ashamed to link some conservative commentators with the online history of convicted Quebec City mosque murderer Alexandre Bissonette.

Doubling down on his outrageous behaviour, Cooper read into the public record part of the manifesto of the New Zealand man accused in the Christchurch mass murder, at which point the howls of protest and outrage from the other committee members caused the meeting to be abruptly adjourned.

READ MORE: Conservative MP lashes out at Muslim witness during hearing on online hate

In the face of monumental backlash to his actions, Cooper has subsequently issued a well-crafted apology.

So, how did Andrew Scheer respond to this reprehensible behaviour by one his MPs?

Not well, to say the least. Cooper has been removed from his position on the justice committee, but he retains his role as deputy justice critic, and more importantly, he remains in the Conservative caucus.

So apparently, contrary to what Scheer told Canadians just a few days earlier, there is room for racism and intolerance in today’s Conservative Party.

READ MORE: 1 in 4 Canadians say it’s becoming ‘more acceptable’ to be prejudiced against Muslims, Ipsos poll finds

It’s no surprise that there are extremist views held by members of many political parties.

Scheer’s old boss, Stephen Harper was quick to muffle some of the radical views of his caucus, but Scheer seems unwilling or unable to act in the same manner.

His tepid response to Cooper’s behaviour renders his commitment to racial intolerance as nothing more than hollow political rhetoric.

Actions speak louder than words, and Scheer’s action on this issue speaks volumes.

Bill Kelly is the host of the Bill Kelly Show on Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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