Over the weekend, Charles Taylor addressed the Broadbent Conference. He's a remarkable man with a remarkable mind and a remarkable history. Like Pierre Trudeau, he grew up in privilege, the son of French and English parents. The two men knew each other well and worked together at Cite Libre. Back in the '60's, they ran against each other in the Town of Mount Royal -- and Taylor knew he was going to lose.
I was living in Montreal back then, and I remember the contest. There were sharp differences of opinion. But the contest was marked by mutual civility and respect -- a far cry from the exchanges this week between Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair.
Back in 2007 Taylor co-chaired Quebec's Commission on Reasonable Accommodation of Cultural and Religious Minorities. He is uniquely qualified to comment on Stephen Harper's politics:
"We're in a context where Islamaphobia is very powerful in the West," he said.
"It's perfectly understandable emotionally. We have to get over it and the worst and the last thing we need is for our political leaders to surf on it and encourage it."
Taylor said Harper seems "tone deaf" to the dangerous impact his rhetoric can have, although he said it also seems to be a deliberate tactic to whip up support in the run-up to the next federal election, scheduled for October.
He called on all political leaders to show restraint, even if it costs them votes, rather than risk "terrible damage" to Canadian society.
In the long run,Taylor said, Harper's politics will be counterproductive:
"Ask yourself what are the recruiters for Islamic State saying? They're saying (to Muslims), 'Look, they despise you, they think that you're foreign, you're dangerous, you're not accepted here, so why don't you come with us?'"
Carl von Clausewitz wrote that war is "politics by other means." For Stephen Harper, the reverse is true. Politics is war by other means. And that kind of politics, Taylor warned his audience, destroys societies.