Stephen Harper's reaction to the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been to have no reaction at all. Stephen Maher writes:
Stephen Harper is increasingly declining to engage on subjects that don’t advance his electoral interests, to the point that his silences are sometimes more noteworthy than the things he says.
Harper has failed, for example, to comment on the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report into crimes committed against aboriginals at residential schools.
Harper did not say anything at the closing ceremonies he attended at Rideau Hall. He did not hold a news conference, as most leaders would do as a matter of course when their government has received $50-million report that took six years to put together.
But this leader doesn’t do that kind of thing. The last time he held a real news conference in Ottawa was in December 2012.
Instead, Maher writes, Harper has become "sphinxlike:"
After saying nothing in Ottawa, he went to the Toronto riding of Finance Minister Joe Oliver to warn television viewers about the threat from jihadi terrorists, delivering his tough lines in front of a backdrop of mute supporters and a huge flag, as he recently did in Montreal.
On Thursday, Harper took four questions. None were about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Perhaps that's because he's been getting feedback from his base. Over at the National Post, the backlash has set in. Andrew Mitrovica writes:
Rodney E. Clifton, professor emeritus of education at the University of Manitoba, and retired anthropology prof Hymie Rubenstein argued that Justice Sinclair’s report failed to note what they claim were the more redeeming qualities of residential schools:
- A lot of the kids wanted to be there and their parents were happy they were there;
- The kids were learning how to read, write and speak English so they could “fully benefit from membership in the new country of Canada”;
- Yes, the kids were “severely” and “routinely” caned and strapped, but everybody was doing it back then;
- Sure, some kids were “segregated” by sex, but two Inuk teachers sometimes spoke to them in their native tongues and they weren’t punished for doing so;
- Other kids even went home on the weekends and during the summer;
- The schools’ “caring” Christian teachers and religious leaders did their best under trying circumstances, but now they’re being unjustly “libeled” by Justice Sinclair.
Harper could, like the politician he most resembles -- Richard Nixon -- figuratively go to China and lead his base in another direction. But the prime minister won't do that. He doesn't lead his base. He is a prisoner of it.
And, so, he has chosen to become a Sphinx and survey the desert he has created.