A protest around immigration took place on Parliament Hill on Sept. 30. Photo: Mackenzie McGhie.
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Rational discussions will go farther than vilification, straw men

Is Sharia Law is on its way to Canada? That’s what the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCCC) thinks of newly implemented federal immigration policies. On Sept. 30, the group organized a protest on Parliament Hill, and was met by counter protesters. After a single physical altercation, the police were called in to maintain the situation.

With the polarized political environment right now, this seems like a successful example of free speech. No one was killed, injured, or arrested. But this certainly isn’t a standard we should be proud of.

When I envision an example of “free speech,” I imagine two people who disagree about something getting together and reviewing each other’s arguments in a manner that would impress Socrates.

Now, obviously, this is merely a fantasy. However, it is crucial that we remember that the concept of actually listening to people you disagree with is what enables a healthy society. On this basis, I would argue that the Parliament Hill protests actually failed.

Firstly, this sort of protest is doomed to fail from the start. Can protests effect positive change? Sometimes. Do they villainize that which you are protesting? Invariably.

And in our incredibly polarized system, this is the crucial point. The Parliament Hill protest deteriorated into groups of people screaming obscenities at each other. No change will come from this.

Furthermore, protests of this sort are absolutely antithetical to the concept of calm, rational discussion. In fact, they encourage you to reduce the opposing views to straw men. The Parliament Hill protest attests to this.

Instead of presenting a nuanced position against Canada’s immigration policy, the CCCC based their protest upon the idea that this change would culminate in Canadian Sharia Law. And instead of presenting a reasonable counter argument, the counter protesters called them fascists and showed up with signs bearing the message “Make the Right Afraid Again.”

Reasonable people should be able to recognize that such hostility is not good for the free flow of ideas.

It really does feel like someone just has to sit down two petulant children and give them a time-out.

Immigration is certainly a complicated issue. Moreover, if refugees enter the equation, as they do in this case, then lives are on the line. Thus, some amount of partisanship is certainly okay. It’s not really an issue that lends itself to flip-flopping.

But that still does not excuse using ideological rhetoric to reduce those you disagree with to positions they clearly do not hold. If you are going to talk politics, at least extend everyone else the courtesy of grounding your position in reality.